Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Gun Violence Rally Calls for Change

Politicians, citizens decry problem in Milwaukee, which saw spike in gun violence last year.

Dozens attend a National Gun Violence Awareness Day event in O’Donnell Park. Photo by Brendan O’Brien.

Dozens attend a National Gun Violence Awareness Day event in O’Donnell Park. Photo by Brendan O’Brien.

Khary Penebaker does not know what his mother’s voice sounded like.

He also does not know what her favorite color was, what she smelled like and what it was like to hear her tell him that she loves him.

“I don’t remember anything about my mother,” Penebaker said emphatically as he held up her death certificate to the bright blue sky. “That’s a problem and it is going to require every single one of us to stand up and say we had enough…and we will do whatever it takes to fix the problem.”

Penebaker, 38, who was 20 months old when his mother pulled over on the side of a road and shot herself to death in 1979, was one of the speakers during a National Gun Violence Awareness Day event in O’Donnell Park in downtown Milwaukee on Thursday.

“We can do simple things like making sure that we place a barrier between a person who may be mentally unwell and … a gun. “We can save people’s lives,” said Penebaker, a candidate for the 5th U.S. Congressional District seat. Penebaker is challenging incumbent Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and a third-party candidate.

Khary Penebaker, a candidate for U.S. Congress, holds his mother’s death certificate as he tells a crowd at a gun violence awareness rally about her suicide in 1979. Photo by Brendan O’Brien.

Khary Penebaker, a candidate for U.S. Congress, holds his mother’s death certificate as he tells a crowd at a gun violence awareness rally about her suicide in 1979. Photo by Brendan O’Brien.

The rally took place underneath The Calling, an orange sunburst sculpture, and was attended by dozens of people who wore orange, a symbol of the campaign against gun violence, as they held signs such as “Moms demand action for gun sense in America.”

Penebaker, along with Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and State Sen. Chris Larson called for better enforcement of laws that dictate gun ownership, restrictions on assault rifle sales and universal background checks.

“It is up to us to speak out,” said Larson, noting that the majority of Americans support universal background checks. “This is the calling to end gun violence in our communities. Let’s make it happen.”

In Milwaukee, 145 people were murdered and 635 non-fatal shootings occurred in 2015, making the year one of the bloodiest and deadliest in recent memory, according to the Journal Sentinel.

“It does not have to be this way…we can do so much better,” State Rep. Mandela Barnes said during the rally. “Every community deserves to be safe regardless of the ZIP code.”

Barnes said that the gun lobby is to blame for turning “communities into war zones.”

The National Gun Violence Awareness Day began in 2015 and is held each June 2, the birth date of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago high school student who was killed by gunfire. Her friends and family decided to honor her life and campaign against gun violence by wearing orange, Pendleton’s favorite color.

“People’s lives depend on this,” said Penebaker, imploring the crowd to contact their lawmakers and demand gun control reforms. “I think about my mom every single day…until we fix this problem, someone else is going to be living my nightmare and I’m not okay with it. So today, enjoy it, wear your orange. But tomorrow, let’s get to work.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

18 thoughts on “Gun Violence Rally Calls for Change”

  1. wisconsin conservative digestn says:

    Take the guns from the felons. Ffine. Barrett/Flynn/Chisholm/Kremers have decided not to put thugs in jail, that is why we have burgeoning crime n city. Drugs. The growing Pot use stimulated the use of Heroin, stimulated the fight for territory and money by the drug gangs. In Chicago only 6% of gun crimes go to jail. In Milwaukee, it is the first thing bargained away. As long as we have multiple felons, walking the street ,we will see daily violence. If there would not be any guns we would still have the drug trade and the violence instead it would be bombs, knives, autos, beatings to death. When it gets to East side, downtown, then we will see action.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    Is the majority of the violence in Milwaukee really about gangs going at it over pot? Has pot use gone up? Where are you getting this information? Also, you make confusing statements about guns. First you say we have to take the guns and then you say taking guns doesn’t matter because people would find other ways to commit violence. So which is it?

  3. John says:


    I know it pains you to admit the Doctors whose prescriptions you translated are mostly to blame for the growing heroin epidemic.

  4. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    I have studied this for 50 years, worked in Rehab and watched hundreds die, early age from wasting on drugs.
    Pot use up bring more drug use, history shows that.
    More drug use brings gang wars, over money, territory etc, brings shootouts and killings. Take the guns away from felons, leave the citizens alone. hH
    How do you do that, by putting felons, straw buyers in jail. Anyone selling guns to felons in jail. Instead they bargain away gun crimes. In Chicago only 6% go to jail.
    30 years ago the govt. and the medical field decided that people, with pain were not being treated properly and that led to increased treatment of pain. Vets have worse.
    Trouble is that we do not have decent pain pills to treat people, so opioids are only option for bad pain. And yes this has caused big problems, but the increased pot smoking for highs, has led to increased overall drug use, there is direct line. That has fueled the drug wars for money, power. History has shown that there will always be drug use. We we’re instrumental in starting the methadone clinic around here in the 70’s that helps a little.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    Aren’t there efforts to prosecute straw buyers? Don’t they need cooperation from the sellers (gun stores)?

    What do you make of this?

    If there will always be drug use isn’t it better to legalize it?

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    I see that in Wisconsin Gander Mountain was involved with straw purchases in 2011 and then again this year. So what are they doing to avoid being involved with straw purchasing? Don’t sellers like them have responsibility to do everything in their power to not be party to that? Or are the laws the problem in that it’s too easy to conduct a straw purchase at a place like Gander Mountain?

  7. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    I have box 4 feet high of articles on Pot use. If there is no correlation then why do we have epidemic?
    Yes, increased drug sales in pharmacies has part.
    Go back hundreds of years to when Opium dens were common in ar east. Now they make it death penalty for selling. Prevention is only cure. Methadone help a little.
    Naloxone can help stop death of dumb kids, just trying stuff, but it really is a problem without answer. Libertarians, Buckley others talk about legalizing, that has been tried so many times, always a failure as usage goes up. You can study this, as I have the last 50 years and know at end that there is no answers except prevention. An alcoholic, addict are that for life. It is hour by hour battle for them. Ask so many dead people’s relatives. Ask Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s friends. go to methadone clinic and talk to people.
    If you have answers, not opinions toss them out.

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    Legalizing drugs has been tried in the U.S.? You are saying the only reason for a heroin/opioid epidemic is pot use? What is the upside to keeping drugs illegal? You say it’s a problem with no solution but then you say prevention is the only solution. That does not seem to have worked.

  9. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Heroin, cocaine, moprhine were all legal in this country in 19th century, you should try researching things occasionally. Remember Coke? Had cocaine in it. You could buy cube of morphine, OTC ,in early 20h century. Durham Humphrey all changed that cause addiction was so prevalent. Has been legal in most places around world prior to 1900. Disastrous effects.
    I have written numerous articles, papers, comments about this.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    How is that relevant to today? The 19th century was a very long time ago.

    It is just not true that there are disastrous effects where drugs are legal.

    You can stop mentioning how many stories you’ve written. It doesn’t impress me or make me take you more seriously. It makes you seem insecure and desperate for approval.

  11. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    People on this site have lots of opinions, but no knowledge, expertise or even common sense, worthless to reply to the village idiots.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    I knew that was coming. I can’t even count the number of times you’ve refused to engage in a discussion and just called people names. It’s so tired. Why don’t you do us all a favor and stop posting here. Go call people names somewhere else. Please.

  13. AG says:

    This really could have been a good discussion topic… disappointing it got derailed so quickly.

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    I tried. Notice that in 3 minutes he decided to insult me rather than continue the discussion.

  15. Casey says:

    Straw buying is impossible to stop unless there is perfect tracking of every weapon that is purchased. I can walk into any gun shop and buy any gun and turn around and give that gun to anyone that I like.
    Maybe micro chip and register all guns to track owner similar to was is done with vehicles? Currently there is not the political will for that.

  16. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Wrong, it would be for you but not for me. You can trace how people got crime guns back and go after the buyers/sellers hard, the message will get out. It is only hard for those that think instead of doing that, we should go after all law-abiding citizens and take away their guns, like UK.

  17. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Flynn does not prosecute paper crimes and/or put people in jail.

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