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Guest commentary: Work on ending gun violence must move forward, even without ATF leader

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Guest commentary: Work on ending gun violence must move forward, even without ATF leader

If momentum means anything, we don’t like what we’re seeing right now in this administration’s response to gun violence. President Biden’s withdrawal of David Chipman as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was a disappointment to us in our work to reduce gun violence. Don’t get us wrong — we are fans of the President’s stated intentions as expressed in his truly forward-thinking candidate’s platform, and we believe those goals and commitments to be sincere. But delay is not our friend.

Although our country will now go without leadership at the ATF, America can still look to the White House for leadership, innovation, and true courage.

President Biden knows the pain of losing a child, just as we do. Our beloved Jessi was slain in the Aurora theater shooting. And just as President Biden addressed his son’s death from cancer by championing the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot, we have worked to spare other families our tremendous pain through action, and believe a similar governmental full-court press, with unrelenting momentum, is needed to stop the escalating toll of lives guns cause.

Over the past nine years, we have learned what’s essential to stop the gun carnage that claims the lives of more than 100 people every day in the United States.

We urge President Biden to consider the following avenues of action:

Create the Office of Gun Violence Prevention to establish a long-term, sustained effort to reduce gun deaths in America by classifying gun violence as a national security crisis and a public health and safety priority, and make a commitment to cut all forms of gun lethality by 50% by 2026, including suicide, homicide, and unintentional shootings.

Create a National Firearm Injury Prevention Bureau. Thanks to the work of the National Transportation Safety Board, transportation-related death rates have plummeted over the years. Experts have successfully implemented the most effective ways for people to survive hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and even tsunamis. Our country desperately needs to learn how to design buildings, create floor plans, and devise exit strategies so people can escape public shootings like the mass shooting that claimed our Jessi nine years ago.

Find ways to hold accountable gun manufacturers and sellers who sell guns and ammunition without completed background checks, or who use false advertising to sell firearms.

In 2019, we, along with other survivors, experts, researchers, and advocates, met at the GVPedia Conference in Denver to honor the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. We collaborated with the attendees to draft the Denver Accord, an evidence-based guide to stem gun violence. We urge all leaders to read the Denver Accord to learn the most effective policies to reduce gun violence.

These actions alone are not enough to end violence but together they would be a good immediate deposit like the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot that will enable our country to address the numerous aspects of gun violence including domestic violence, stolen firearms, and suicide.

The pandemic has brought with it a suffocating blanket of fear — a fear that people, misguided by firearm lobby slogans, respond to by purchasing firearms. The increased number of firearms in our homes and communities is reflected in the staggering 32% increase in firearm-related deaths in Colorado between Jan. 1 and September 15, 2021, compared to the same periods in 2019 and 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive. CBS News reported that 2021 will likely record the highest number of gun violence in 20 years nationwide.

President Biden and political leaders wherever you serve, let us not be victims of our times but, instead, visionaries of a safer, more peaceful future. A future where all violence is rare because our great nation has applied our considerable abilities, listened to our survivors, used the best research, and worked together, with shared humanity and compassion, to stem the gun bloodshed that has stained our nation.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips are the founders of Survivors Empowered, which assists gun violence survivors and seeks to give them a voice. Their daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was murdered in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.  

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Unsettled weekend weather with severe storms possible Sunday

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Unsettled weekend weather with severe storms possible Sunday

ST. LOUIS – Unsettled weekend weather with multiple rounds of rain and storms forecast to impact the area, including a threat for severe weather for St. Louis on Sunday.

Saturday morning into the afternoon expect scattered rain and a few rumbles of thunder mainly south of I-70 to continue spreading eastward. This activity gradually tapers off through the afternoon.

Later Saturday evening into tonight showers and storms develop across central and east central Missouri and lift north ahead of a warm front as we head into early Sunday morning. These storms could produce some hail along with heavy rain. The front stalls across northern Missouri and west central Illinois where heavy rain and storms will continue for much of the day on Sunday. Our far northern counties could be impacted by multiple waves of heavy rain through the day with amounts to around 2”.

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

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Annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to raise awareness and funds for research

ST. LOUIS – The annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s is back this year. The goal is not just to raise awareness about the disease but to also to raise funds for research.

The walk is happening at the Enterprise Center beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

So far, the Alzheimer’s Association has raised more than $800,000, not too far away from reaching its goal of $1.3 million.

This progressive disease affects millions of Americans. In fact, the CDC says in 2020, as many as 5.8 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s disease.

The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65. That number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.

During the walk you’ll see people carrying flowers of different colors, each color representing the person’s connection to the disease.

A purple flower is for those who have lost a someone to the disease. A yellow flower represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for a person living with Alzheimer’s.

Registration for the walk is at 7:30 a.m. There will be a ceremony at 9:15 and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m.

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

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‘Holy grail‘ of American folk art discovered St. Louis yard

ST. LOUIS – Art historians are calling it the holy grail of a find, a rare work of art found in a St. Louis front yard. What looked like a lawn ornament is now headed to a museum in New York.   

It’s a sculpture of two sisters that sat in the front yard of a St. Louis home that’s been on quite a journey. First rediscovered in 2019 by a gentleman named John Foster, an art historian.     

For years the sculpture entitled “Martha and Mary” sat on a bench in the city of St. Louis before an art historian saw it while out on a stroll. 

“That didn’t look like the commonly seen concrete lawn ornament that we are used to seeing,” said Valerie Rousseau, senior curator American Folk Art Museum & Exhibition chair. 

Sally Bliss had inherited this Martha and Mary sculpture, and it sat outside her home in New York when she was a ballet dancer. Years later after her first husband died, she moved to St. Louis when she met her second husband, Jim Connette. 

“I had it and put it out in my garden in Long Island, which was our main house, and brought it with me and put it on the bench,” Bliss said.

“I knew it was valuable. But I knew that nobody would steal it because it looked like it was part of the bench and would be really difficult to pick up that bench and steal the whole thing.” 

This lawn sculpture was originally made by artist William Edmondson, the famed black sculptor from Nashville, Tennessee.

The ‘two sisters’ sculpture had been featured at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937 in New York and later Paris, France. 

Today, William Edmondson is considered a preeminent black sculptor, although he didn’t start sculpting until 1934 when he was 60 years old, and only made 300 sculptures over the course of 15 years. 

Using limestone from demolished buildings.  

“Like most museums, we have to have supporters to acquire such artwork,” Rousseau said. “Prices for Edmundson sculptures can be $350,000 to $800,000.”   

And after some conversations and a cleaning, Martha and Mary are headed back to New York. This time, the sculpture will be the centerpiece of the American Museum of Folk Art. Debuting this January on the celebration of the museum’s 60th year. 

Thanks to the generosity of a man named Brian Donnelly, this sculpture and its wild ride of a story will reside in the Big Apple.  

“I was sad,” Bliss said. “But I knew that this was the right place for it to go and especially to New York and so many people will see it and he will get his due and to me, that’s more important than me having to be sad because I’m losing that work of art.” 

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