After 32 people in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, were killed in mass shootings in early August, Rosemarie Veneziano decided that enough was enough. She attended a gun-control rally organized by Rita Kestenbaum, of Bellmore, whose daughter was killed in a shooting at Arizona State University in 2007. Kestenbaum encouraged attendees to have difficult conversations about gun violence, and to call their elected representatives.
Veneziano tied an orange ribbon around the tree in front of her Sea Cliff home on Aug. 9 — orange is the color of the gun-control movement. When her neighbors asked what the ribbon represented, she told them it was in protest of gun violence, and they asked for ribbons as well. Before long, more and more people were asking for them, and the ribbons adorned homes around the community.
Veneziano has put up 193 ribbons across the North Shore, all with homeowners’ permission. And the movement appears to be growing, she said. “I’ve seen so many ribbons these last few weeks that I didn’t put up, so I’m ecstatic over that,” she said. “It’s not just me, it’s kind of taking on a life of its own, so it’s very invigorating.”
Sea Cliff resident Peggie Como, a former co-worker of Veneziano’s, was among the first people to join the orange ribbon movement. She knew Veneziano was passionate about ending gun violence, evidenced by the photos of victims of the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., she had on her refrigerator. Como supported the movement immediately.
Renee Swanson, also of Sea Cliff, didn’t know Veneziano before she joined the movement. She said she had seen orange ribbons around her neighborhood, and asked a friend what they were for. Her friend gave her Veneziano’s email. She admired Veneziano’s commitment, she said, and believed her cause was worth supporting.
Swanson said she supported the gun-control movement because she hates worrying about the safety of her grandchildren every day. “I’ve always cared about it,” she said, “but with the uptick [in shootings], I’ve become very concerned about it. I have grandchildren in [Port Washington] schools, and it’s scary.”
Swanson and her friend Inez Powell have hung 71 ribbons around their neighborhood.
While her opposition to gun violence is no secret, Veneziano wants her message to be clear. She does not want new laws to require gun owners to surrender their pistols or hunting rifles. Instead, she believes in mandated universal background checks, “red flag” laws, and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Her mission, she said, is to raise awareness of mass shootings, not to do away with the right to bear arms.
“I think it just has to keep moving,” Como said. “You have to keep pounding away at people to get to them. It’s important for people to realize that there’s a middle ground.”
Veneziano said she was proud of this grass-roots movement. There are no organizations, advocacy groups or nonprofits involved. She said she believed the orange ribbon movement could resonate across the country.
“It’s a unifying issue,” she said. “Most Americans can unite under this one cause, and that makes me happy.”