NEW ORLEANS - A nationwide tour against gun violence made a stop in New Orleans Saturday.
Volunteers read the names of more than 6,500 people nationwide who have lost their lives to gun violence since December’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
Jesse Lewis, 6, was one of 26 people killed in that mass shooting.
On Saturday, his father, Neil Heslin, remembered his son and spoke out in favor of universal background checks.
“When he was killed that day it was the hardest day of my life. And every day has been a struggle,” said Heslin, noting through tears that his son would have turned seven on Sunday.
Heslin is among a number of grieving family members supporting a national campaign called "No More Names," spearheaded by Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns.
The campaign includes a 100-day drive across 25 states in an effort to promote universal background checks and speak out against gun violence.
“I can't change what happened, none of us can, but we can change what happens in the future,” said Heslin.
Cinthia Finch is working toward change, too. Her son, Jermaine Finch, was 14 when he was gunned down in Algiers in 2003. The loss still feels fresh. And, like Heslin, Finch believes that loss could have been prevented with stronger gun policies.
“I feel the lack of gun violence prevention allowed a teenager not much older than my son to murder him and take his life away,” said Finch.
But at a River Ridge shooting range, one gun owner doesn't believe expanding background checks to include private gun sales are the answer. Instead, he says, we should educate people about gun safety and focus on enforcing laws that are already in place.
“We've got about 20,000 gun laws on the books, I think you need to look for stronger enforcement and prosecution after the enforcement actions,” said firearms instructor Mike Jurina.
But those like Heslin say existing laws weren't enough to save their children.
The nationwide "No More Names" campaign runs through September 22.