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Trigger spurs conversations on gun violence in a Chicago community

Gun violence is not just a tragedy, it is a disaster with waves that spread in many directions, viewers of the new documentary film Trigger: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence affirm.

“Those ripples affect every single one of us,” said David Roberts, a member of Lake View Presbyterian Church in Chicago. Hearing the stories and seeing the pictures in this film will “heighten the awareness … of how gun violence affects people everywhere,” he said.

Roberts, who serves on the anti-violence task force of his church’s social justice committee, saw Trigger recently during a screening held at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. The event is one of many taking place since the documentary, a project of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was released nationwide in early November.

The film was produced by David Barnhart of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and is airing on NBC television affiliates until May 2013. Additionally, the movie is available to others who would like to hold a screening.

“The response has just been overwhelming,” said Barnhart, whose work with PDA has garnered numerous awards over the years. “When we screen this, people are really connected.”

Trigger seeks to shine the spotlight not only on those immediately impacted by gun violence, but also the scores of others who are touched by the disasters. Everyone from chaplains to law enforcement officials to surgeons are touched by the violence, Barnhart said. The film also addresses the issue of gun violence prevention.

“Most people just have this sense that it (gun violence) is someplace else,” said Beth Laurin, a deacon at Fourth Presbyterian Church. But as someone in the screening audience said, “violence comes to you,” she said.

More than 30,000 people are killed each year in the United States from gun violence, and many more are wounded.

“We’ve had shootings on my street, murders on that street,” said Laurin, who lives west of Fourth Presbyterian. “The violence is a disaster.”

For her part, Laurin is a co-facilitator for the Chicago Area Policing Strategy (CAPS) program, a community effort in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department. She would like to see Trigger shown in schools and hopes that can happen through (CAPS).

Roberts also hopes to expand the reach of the documentary and said his church is planning a screening.

“Because of the horrific escalation in gun violence, especially in Chicago, it has become a national story,” he said. People need to hear the stories told in the film, Roberts said.

Lake View Presbyterian Church has been trying to connect the effects of violence with real life for some time, and for a while the congregation was reading aloud the names of children slain. As time passed “it took longer and longer to read the names. It became painful,” Roberts said.

Trigger is intended “to wake people up,” said Barnhart. “This should not be the norm in our society, shootings every day.”