How a Teen's Tragic Shooting Kickstarted a National Movement to Stop Gun Violence

On Friday, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, thousands of people will don the same bold hue as part of the third annual Wear Orange campaign

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Photo: Joe Quint

On Friday, National Gun Violence Awareness Day, thousands of people from across the country are expected to all don the same bold hue as part of the third annual Wear Orange campaign honoring victims of gun violence and spotlighting gun safety.

Among the participants will be Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore.

The eye-catching movement, Moore tells PEOPLE, asks people “to send a message to end gun violence.”

Wear Orange started in 2015, two years after 15-year-old high school honor student and drum majorette Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed on Jan. 29, 2013, in Chicago — just one week after she performed with her high school marching band at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

An accidental casualty of gang violence, Pendleton was shot in a South Side park where she and friends had taken shelter from the rain.

Refusing to stay silent about her death, and the gun deaths of so many others, Pendelton’s friends decided to wear orange to commemorate her life and raise awareness.

• To learn more about Julianne Moore’s work to prevent gun violence, subscribe now to PEOPLE or pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands now.

“After we lost Hadiya, there were a lot of emotions going on,” Nza-Ari Khepra, one of the campaign’s founding members, told CNN. “The conversation motivated students and community members to get involved.”

Why orange? It’s the color that hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others from gunfire.

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Chris Hardy

Moore, who teamed with Everytown for Gun Safety and founded the Everytown Creative Council after the Sandy Hook shooting, has taken part in the Wear Orange campaign since its inception.

“Since June 2, 2015, which would have been her [Hadiya’s] 18th birthday, wearing orange has become a way of honoring her and the people who have lost their lives to gun violence,” Moore tells PEOPLE.

“This is not an anti-gun or pro-gun argument. It’s a safety issue,” she says. “In our country, we have a right to bear arms. But we also have a responsibility to bear arms safely.”

RELATED VIDEO: The Story Behind PEOPLE’s Call to Action on Gun Violence

Moore says that it’s simple: “With regulation, you reduce deaths.”

“We’re not talking about something outrageous,” she says. “We’re talking about closing the background loophole, when guns are allowed to be sold without background checks, so there are fewer illegal guns in the world.

“If we can manage to do that, that’s a pretty awesome thing and something we need to ask our legislators to do as well. The Wear Orange campaign shows that you can make a difference.”

Click here to contact your Congressional representatives to learn what is being done to stop the epidemic of gun violence in America — and to share what you think we should be doing.

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