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Prayers For Gun Violence Prevention, As Accused Somers Shooter Faces Three Intentional Homicide Charges

Chuck Quirmbach
Memorials across the street from The Somers House, the tavern where Sunday's mass shooting occurred.

The shootings at a Kenosha County tavern last weekend, that left three people dead and three wounded, are prompting more demands for what a coalition calls "common sense gun violence prevention."

The 80% Coalition held a rally Wednesday near The Somers House, the tavern is near Carthage College where the shooting occurred. The coalition is made up of religious groups and those representing doctors, mental health advocates, as well as Black and Latino organizations.

Chuck Quirmbach
Darryl Morin, (with microphone) President of Forward Latino, and a co-founder of The 80% Coalition, addresses Wednesday's rally.

Darryl Morin, of Forward Latino, named the young Kenosha men who died.

"Atkeem Stevenson, who was 26 and a father; Cedric Gaston, who was 24 and a father and Kevin Donaldson, an aspiring rapper who tragically lost his cousin in 2019, as well, to violence," he said.

Morin also mentioned the three people who were injured, and spoke of others who witnessed the shootings "who will forever carry with them, the trauma of Sunday's event."

The 80% Coalition said its legislative priorities include extending the current background check requirement for gun purchases at stores to include any sale or transfer of firearms at gun shows, online or from an individual.

The coalition also supports money in Gov. Tony Evers' proposed state budget that would fund Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). Those would allow law enforcement or a family member to petition a court if they believe an individual with a firearm is a danger to him or herself or to others. If the threat is found to be credible, law enforcement could retrieve the firearm or firearms until the threat is over.

Chuck Quirmbach
Fr. Yeprem Keligian, of the Racine Interfaith Coalition, leads a prayer during Wednesday's event.

Coalition member Jon McCray Jones of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) said the Evers plan would help prevent more than homicides.

"We see that the biggest victims of gun violence in Wisconsin, one of the biggest demographics is white rural voters, white rurals through suicide. And, we're hoping that part of it will really inspire a bipartisan effort to push ERPO laws," he said.

While Evers is a Democrat, Republicans control the state Legislature. GOP State Senator Van Wanggaard represents parts of Kenosha and Racine counties. His office provided WUWM a statement, in which Wanggaard contends more gun control laws are not the answer for preventing gun violence. The lawmaker argues ERPO, sometimes called "red flag" laws, often take away constitutional rights before due process occurs — and create a guilty before proven innocent scenario.

A few miles away from Wednesday's rally, Kenosha County prosecutors issued three charges of first-degree intentional homicide, and three of attempted first degree intentional homicide against Rakayo Vinson accused of the tavern shootings.

The Associated Press reports a court commissioner refused to lower Vinson's $4 million bond, with the court official saying the case "appears (to be) yet another example of senseless gun violence, which destroys lives."

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