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The first Friday in June is National Gun Violence Awareness Day and this year it was also the day that Mayor Ben Walsh officially proclaimed Gun Violence Awareness Day. Month in Syracuse.

Walsh unveiled the proclamation in the presence of local politicians and community leaders dressed in orange (the color of the gun violence awareness movement), some of whom have themselves lost friends or family members to gun violence.

Walsh says Syracuse doesn’t deserve this pain.

“Think about what this city and this community would look like without gun violence. Think about it,” he told the crowd. “Think about your life without gun violence. It’s a wonderful thing and it’s possible.”

In recent years, firearms have become a leading cause of death among children in the United States, and the Walsh administration, including the Mayor’s Office to Reduce Gun Violence, is working to reduce that number locally.

At Friday’s event, lawmakers and other leaders focused less on policy change and more on community engagement.

Hassan Stevens of the Good Life Youth Foundation says his organization uses “hip-hop culture and youth culture, the culture that resonates with our young adults, to really stabilize them socially and emotionally.”

Then young people are exposed to business and entrepreneurship, says Stephens: “We’ve found that this is an important factor in deterring them and keeping them away from violence on the streets. These are activities that force them to respond to the harsh conditions in which they grow up.”

As part of Friday’s event, three trees were planted in Ormand Spencer Park.

Each tree is dedicated to the memory of a young person killed by gunfire in Syracuse, and this is the beginning of an annual tradition, says Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens.

“Let us plant trees to remember our loved ones,” she said, “because trees represent life.”

Supporters of the Gun Violence Awareness Proclamation can be seen wearing bright orange throughout the region this month because they believe it represents the way hunters dress, signaling that they are human, not targets..

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