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2 hope their stories of loss stop violence

TV and radio spots aim to curb use of illegal guns in Utah TV and radio spots aim to end use of illegal guns

Lynette Gurr, whose husband was shot and killed two years ago, speaks out against illegal guns during the unveiling of a media outreach program intended to inform people about laws on firearms.
Lynette Gurr, whose husband was shot and killed two years ago, speaks out against illegal guns during the unveiling of a media outreach program intended to inform people about laws on firearms.
Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News

Two women, both touched by gun violence in two very different ways.

Lynette Gurr lost her husband, Cecil Gurr, when the Roosevelt police chief was shot and killed after responding to a domestic violence call two years ago.

Barbara Garcia lost her son, Wally Martinez, to the California federal prison in which Martinez will spend the next 65 years after committing a series of armed robberies.

Over the next few months, the women's stories of loss will become familiar to scores of Utahns through a series of public service announcements that highlight an aggressive federal initiative aiming to curb illegal gun use in the state.

The media campaign was rolled out Friday morning to an audience of prosecutors, police, state leaders and high school students from the Jordan School District.

It was to those students that Gurr directed her comments about the need to stem the tide of gun violence in the state.

"The decisions that you make at this time affect not only you, but they affect those that love you," Gurr said. "I've watched my children suffer and I've seen the sorrow and the agony of losing a father."

In one of the 60-second radio spots previewed Friday, Gurr and her children talk about Cecil Gurr's July 6, 2001, murder. After an emotional description of events that led to the fatal gunshot, Gurr's daughter remarks, "We didn't just lose a great police officer and a great serviceman, but we lost a father."

Both women said agreeing to relive their stories for the entire state to hear was not an easy decision to make.

"I had to debate, and (think about) how my son was going to feel," said Garcia, who implores in one of her 60-second spots to "Be good, don't break your mom's heart." "But if it helps one child, I know it will be worth it."

The outreach program is the second phase of the state's Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative. The first step, an aggressive arrest and prosecution campaign, has netted nearly 1,000 indictments against violators to federal firearms laws. Utah leads the nation in prosecutions under the program, initiated by President Bush in May 2001.

In a recent conference call with the nation's U.S. Attorneys, Bush called Project Safe Neighborhoods his No. 1 domestic crime initiative, U.S. Attorney for Utah Paul Warner said.

Utah's program has the support of the state's representatives in Washington, D.C., as both Rep. Jim Matheson and Sen. Orrin Hatch lauded the program at Friday's gathering.

"It's always a pleasure to stand up and speak out on behalf of a project that works," Matheson said. "As a member of Congress, I can assure you that you will always have someone who's going to be supportive of this program."

In a videotaped message, Hatch noted that, each year, guns are involved in more than 300,000 violent crimes nationally. Additionally, he said, American teenage boys are more likely to die from a gunshot wound than anything else.

"This has got to stop, and Project Safe Neighborhoods is poised and ready to make a difference," Hatch said.

Warner made clear his office does not go after lawful gun owners. "This isn't about going after guns, per se. This is about going after people who use guns illegally."

Under federal laws, convicted felons, undocumented immigrants, drug users and those subject to a protective order are prohibited from possessing a firearm.

The spots begin airing today on television and radio stations throughout the state. A $170,000 two-year grant paid for the research and development of the campaign, and media outlets donated more than $850,000 worth of broadcast time.


E-mail: awelling@desnews.com