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Rocks commemorating gun violence victims vanish from Courthouse garden

More than 100 painted rocks commemorating victims of gun violence seem to have gone missing from a garden in Courthouse.

The Arlington chapter of Moms Demand Action suspects someone may have stolen most of the 150 rocks in “Hope Garden,” a memorial garden located near Courthouse Plaza.

“Sometime in the last week, most of the rocks were stolen. Now about 25 remain,” says Susan Koch, the group leader, adding that she has “no idea who did it or why” and that members are “heartbroken.”

The garden near the intersection of N. Courthouse Road and 15th Street N. was dedicated in 2019. Since then, Koch says many group members have painted rocks and placed them in the garden to honor friends and relatives affected by gun violence, either through tragic loss or enduring trauma.

Apart from the stolen rocks, the rest of the garden remained untouched, she said.

Koch said the group plans to ask for the community’s support to restore the garden but she remains wary of future incidents occurring.

“We’re going to paint more rocks for sure to try and make up for the ones that were stolen,” Koch said. “But…how do we protect them from not being stolen again?”

Founded in 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Moms Demand Action has emerged as a platform for some 10 million members to advocate for statewide and national gun safety measures.

Over the last decade, the local chapter has worked with elected officials, including Del. Patrick Hope (D) and State Sen. Barbara Favola (D), on gun safety laws, including a series of bills, such as universal background checks and “Red Flag” laws, passed by the General Assembly in 2020.

The group also discusses gun safety with schools and community organizations and works with local nonprofits, such as Doorways, which provides resources to victims of domestic violence.

“We have a program called, ‘Be Safe,’ which basically tells people how important it is to store their guns safely,” Koch said.

She emphasized that the group is not “anti-gun.” Instead, its members advocate for gun safety education as a crucial aspect of weapon ownership.

“We don’t want to take people’s guns away. We just want them to be safe,” Koch said.

Koch said the group might go to the police and file a report. Whatever the outcome, she noted the incident would not “break” them.

“We will persevere,” she said.

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