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Low-key Ogden daffodil planting speaks loudly against Utah gun violence

By Mark Shenefelt - | Oct 27, 2021

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner

Participants plant daffodil bulbs Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at the Ogden Botanical Gardens in memory of the 429 who died by gun violence in Utah in 2020.

OGDEN — The peaceful act of planting flowers punctuated an effort Wednesday to spotlight the deadly scourge of gun violence in Utah.

Participants planted 429 daffodil bulbs during an event at the Ogden Botanical Gardens, signifying the number of people who died by firearms in the state in 2020. The Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah and the League of Women Voters sponsored the planting, an annual exercise.

Nancy Halden, a GVPC board member, said it’s the first time the group has held the planting north of Salt Lake City. “Gun violence happens everywhere, and in Ogden, too, sadly,” she said.

Before the planting, several speakers focused on the disproportionate impact gun violence has on children. Firearms are the No. 1 cause of death among children and teens in Utah, said Terri Gilfillan, head of the violence prevention group. She said Utah is second in the nation for youth firearm suicides.

“I’m passionate about this subject,” said Luke Rasmussen, Ogden School District superintendent. “We have been blessed, lucky, that gun violence hasn’t hit our schools.”

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner

Ogden Police Chief Eric Young helps plant daffodil bulbs Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at the Ogden Botanical Gardens in memory of the 429 people who died by gun violence in Utah in 2020.

He said an Ogden district survey indicated 87% of students said they had an adult at school they could depend on and find support. The remark drew applause from attendees at the planting, but Rasmussen said, “I worry about that other 13%.”

Police and school officials in mid-September said a student was found in possession of a loaded gun at Ogden High School, but the gun was retrieved without incident.

Rasmussen said teachers and staff developing relationships with students is a key to deterring violence, suicide or other damaging behaviors. Getting more involvement from parents and guardians and engendering trust between staff and students also are vital, he said.

Ogden Police Chief Eric Young, who later joined Rasmussen as the first two to get their hands dirty at the daffodil planting bed, said community events like these are empowering to the police force. He said the nationwide toll of gun deaths is “horrific” and that, overall, communities are “losing the battle.”

However, Ogden is “holding steady” in the rate of violent crime, unlike some other communities, he said. Utah saw a more than 40% increase in homicides in 2020, much of the trend happening in Salt Lake County.

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner

Ogden Police Chief Eric Young, far left, and Ogden School District Superintendent Luke Rasmussen listen to Gun Violence Prevention of Utah Director Terri Gilfillan, right, talk about Utah's 429 gun deaths in 2020 on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at the Ogden Botanical Gardens.

Young urged those gathered to also remember that police officers are represented among the victims of gun deaths. He said he recently went to Washington, D.C., to help carry out Police Week honors for Ogden Officer Nate Lyday, who was shot to death on a domestic violence call in May last year.

Young said Lyday was attacked “by a crazed maniac, and thank God he was only able to kill one.” In that incident, police returned fire, killing Lyday’s assailant.

The dangers of gun crime have worsened since Young patrolled a beat in Ogden, he said. Suspects more often are armed and attempt to draw the weapons while being arrested. “It’s terrifying,” the chief said.

Young used to be a school resource police officer working in the Ogden district, League of Women Voters Weber County President Terri McCulloch told the group, recognizing the role police play in school and youth safety.

McCulloch stressed the importance of families keeping firearms locked up and separated from ammunition. Of violent deaths among Utah children, 75% are from guns and, of those, 80% of the guns were from the victim’s home, she said.

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner

Participants prepare to plant daffodil bulbs Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at the Ogden Botanical Gardens in memory of the 429 people who died by gun violence in Utah in 2020.

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