Roanoke City Council makes amends with gun advocacy group

Moms Demand Action accused the city of not wanting to work together

ROANOKE, Va. – Moms Demand Action is a gun violence advocacy group and Monday night they accused the city of Roanoke of shutting down their plan to co-host a rally with the city. But city leaders said not so fast.

City Council and staff instead say it's all just one big misunderstanding, and they want people to know council is against all violence.

Moms Demand Action members spoke from the podium a number of times, reading names of those who have been gunned down and parts of their proposed proclamation. The group requested the city approve the proclamation to coincide with a national one declaring June 1 Gun Violence Awareness day. They wanted the city to work with them on an event for that day as well.

"(The event) would give the city the opportunity to connect with the citizens of Roanoke rather than to read a statement from behind a chair at City Council," Moms Demand Action Group leader Karen Cobb said.

The event would've honored victims of gun violence, and rallied crowds against any future violence. But neither the proclamation or the event will happen.

"We get requests for proclamations a lot of times, we looked back at what we had done just last year and we thought that was an appropriate response," Roanoke City Attorney Dan Callaghan said. "It seemed to be received well last year."

City Council made it clear they did not understand the full extent of the request, and a number of members noted they were unaware of any event at all. The date also falls on the same day both Roanoke City high schools are set to graduate.

"There's no question of council's commitment to wearing orange, I suspect that you'll see council members at graduations with orange on June 1st," Callaghan said.

Accusations of who did or did not do what flew into the microphone from those in attendance. Council fought back, reminding the group of the work they've done, including asking the state to allow the city to restrict certain types of guns.

"I would put my record up against any mayor in this Commonwealth in terms of being involved, speaking out, speaking up," Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea said. "It started before I became mayor."

Mayor Lea asked residents during both sessions of council to wear orange June 1 as request by Moms Demand Action. The group said it would've paid for an event, and just that request is not enough.

"Our citizens deserve not just this, but more, this is just the beginning of where we're starting and why wouldn't the city partner with Moms Demand Action?" Cobb said. "We are a group of volunteers who are trying to get a grip on this gun violence issue in the United States."

At the end of the meeting, Vice Mayor Anita Price asked to meet with the group sometime soon to sort this out. The group was pleased with the offer.