Despite the cold weather, 40 people held candles at Beachwood Park's outdoor recreation pavilion during a vigil against gun violence on Jan. 8.

The vigil, organized by National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Cleveland Section, under the direction of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, was one of 62 vigils in 22 states commemorating the one-year anniversary of the Tucson, Ariz., shooting that left six people dead and 13 injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Those in attendance also paid tribute to the 30,000 people who died in the United States in 2011 as a result of gun violence.

"One year after the Tucson shootings, nothing much has changed - felons, teens, domestic abusers, drug criminals, and the adjudicated mentally ill still find it easy to get guns and victimize innocent Americans," said Judy Eigenfeld, NCJW president.

Calling on those present to advocate against gun violence, Eigenfeld urged the group to "reach out, educate and advocate for reasonable legislation and full-scale solutions to stop gun violence perpetrated by those who are prohibited from owning a gun and those who aid and abet them. This is the lesson of Tucson."

NCJW's Committee to Stop Gun Violence is chaired by Susan Reis. Lori O'Neill, a member of the committee and co-founder of Citizens for Safety, has been a longtime advocate for gun control.

"In Cleveland, 88 citizens were murdered by guns in 2011, an increase of 20% over 2010," O'Neill said. "I am baffled why state and federal legislators won't take common-sense steps to keep guns away from criminals, teenagers and domestic violence abusers."

U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights) has frequently spoken out against gun violence. "In our great nation, gun ownership is a right, but we also have a responsibility to ensure the safety of citizens," she said.  "There is no just outcome to permitting unlimited access to guns and ammunition to those who present a risk to innocent citizens."

Getting the ear of public officials who can enact appropriate legislation to stem gun violence is an important first step, said Reis. "We must speak out in a strong, collective voice and ask elected officials to pass legislation that requires gun sellers to do background checks and close gun show loopholes," she said. "I'm not against the second amendment, but based on what happened in Tucson and at Virginia Tech, it is clear that current gun regulations are far too lax."

Reis said she believes guns are becoming more lethal as military-grade, high-capacity, semi-automatic pistols and rifles become more readily available to civilians for purchase. "That is why we don't want guns in the hands of people who are not legally allowed to own them," she said.

afine@cjn.org