Empty shoes on state capitol steps symbolize 467 victims of gun - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

COPY-Empty shoes on state capitol steps symbolize 467 victims of gun violence

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Monday morning on the state capitol stairs a symbol of anti-violence made a concerning issue all too clear.

"Every year 467 men, women and children on average are killed with guns here in Wisconsin in homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings," Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Executive Director Jeri Bonavia says.

To symbolize these victims, members of WAVE set up 467 pairs of empty shoes on the state capitol stairs. The shoes ranged from tough work boots to pink bunny slippers. Members say the diversity of shoes shows how gun violence can affect anyone.

"I had a gun held to my head for more than half an hour and I was robbed and raped at gunpoint," WAVE member Kristina Paris says.

The terrifying experience changed Paris forever.

"I'm very grateful to be alive, but it just makes me realize how horrifying that is."

She's now a staff member at the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) where she works with other gun violence victims and raises awareness of this concerning issue. Paris says she easily could've become one of these pairs of shoes. She feels lucky to be alive and often thinks about the emotional experience she had to endure.

"Having a gun held to your head for that long, there's nothing that can even come close to describing the feeling," Paris says.

Members of WAVE are in favor of universal background checks for gun ownership as well as limiting ownership for people who are mentally ill, violent and have a proven addiction problem with drugs and alcohol.

Local law enforcement leaders also spoke during the kickoff event at the state capitol. Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney and Madison Police Chief Michael Koval stated they are both in favor of universal background checks during speeches they delivered on the capitol steps Monday afternoon.

"We are now looking at a public health epidemic. When you can lose on average well over 10,000 innocent lives on any given year in America, you have to have an adult discussion about where this issue is going," Koval says.

Monday's demonstration was the first of five stops the cities the Hearts and Soles tour will stop at this week. Members of WAVE will take the display to Eau Claire and Wausau on Tuesday, Appleton on Wednesday and Milwaukee on Saturday.

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