Friday is National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the United States, an annual event recognizing the more than 100,000 people killed or wounded by gunfire in the country each year. This year’s event comes as the nation mourns last week’s mass shooting at a Texas elementary school.

People are encouraged to wear orange, the color hunters wear to show they are not targets, as a way to call for an end to gun violence.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 45,000 firearm-related deaths in 2020, its latest available data set. The CDC said firearm-related injuries were among the top five leading causes of death for people ages 1 to 44.

The Gun Violence Archive — an unaffiliated research group that collects data from more than 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources — says there have been more than 18,000 gun violence deaths so far in 2022, a rate similar to the CDC statistics. Since a school attack May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers, there have been more than 20 of what the Gun Violence Archive classifies as mass shootings, ones in which at least four people are shot in a single incident, not including the shooter.

Josh Sugarmann, executive director at the Violence Policy Center, told VOA he believes the country will remain in an escalating cycle of violence until people recognize its “gun crisis is directly related to the easy access we allow our citizens to increasingly lethal weaponry.” The Violence Policy Center is an advocacy group that works to reduce gun violence.

Most Democratic Party lawmakers back tighter gun regulations while most Republicans oppose them, arguing that law-abiding gun owners should not be punished because of the crimes of others. They cited the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which affirms the right to bear arms.

Multiple bills to scrutinize gun buyers and restrict purchases of the deadliest weapons have been put forward in the U.S. Congress over the last decade. None has become law.

Opinion polls show most Americans support at least moderate regulations on gun ownership. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last month showed 51% of Americans favor a nationwide ban on the sale of AR-15 rifles and similar semiautomatic weapons, with 32% opposed.

National Gun Violence Awareness Day is recognized in congressional resolutions that call on the people of the United States to promote awareness of gun violence and gun safety, highlight typical increases in gun violence in summer months, and bring people together in their communities to discuss ways to make them safer.

As part of the event, orange light displays will be in place at sites such San Francisco City Hall and the Washington National Cathedral. A number of companies are participating as well, including publisher Penguin Random House, clothier Levi Strauss & Co. and MTV Entertainment Studios.

Fans at some sporting events across the country will also see their teams participate with education campaigns and players wearing orange.

National Gun Violence Awareness Day and the Wear Orange campaign were launched in 2015 in commemoration of the death of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago high school student.

A week after marching in the second inaugural parade of President Barack Obama in 2013, Pendleton was shot and killed on a playground in Chicago. Shortly afterward, her friends decided to commemorate her life by wearing orange.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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