Today I’m a sick and saddened, heartbroken UCSB Gaucho. Those are my old stomping grounds down there in Isla Vista, CA. The map of carnage they keep showing on TV might well have been the course of some reckless, Dionysian pub crawl my friends and I used to make “around the Loop” during our college days. I know I speak for all Gauchos when I say how much I loved going to UCSB. Those were some of the greatest days of my life. Isla Vista was like a giant playground for twenty-somethings, a place where you only had to make sure to take care of your school business in between silly hijinx and crazy adventures, and you were going to be a-okay. I met dozens of lifelong friends there, and that magical place changed my life forever.

That said, the shooting tragedy has really bummed me out. The young man shot in the market was from Los Osos, for goddsakes. My buddy coached him in Little League. The kid’s dad was the one who made the heartbreaking speech pleading for change and asking WHY?!?! things like the I.V. madness continue to befall one American community after another. It is agonizing.

I’m really heartsick that this horror happened in the vibrant, spirited, energetic, fun, crazy, electrifying good old college town of Isla Vista, CA. Sure, it’s a slum to some, but to those of us who know and love it, there’s not a better place in the world for kids to take a first dip into the deep, invigorating, wide open pool of adulthood.

It was only about 15 months or so ago that we suffered through the horror of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. As no one will ever forget, 25 little kids were gunned down there, enjoying their last day of kindergarten by looking madness and evil in the eye. I argued at that time on my former blog that nothing in this massive, unmanageable, short-sighted country of ours, nothing, will ever change until we get beyond our obsession with guns and face the reality that something drastic must be done.

Well, here we are. It’s two years later. Nothing’s changed. There have been dozens of mass shootings in America since Sandy Hook. Hundreds more people have died thanks to these unpredictable bouts of madness, including seven more now. In the wake of Sandy Hook, President Obama and a few politically stout legislators in Congress proposed a series of modest national gun control measures. For that they were vilified, and every single one of those measures went down to defeat. Every single one.

It’s wishful thinking, I know, but we can only hope this latest atrocity is the one that finally compels America to face down its obsession with guns. My fellow current and former Gauchos are all and each one incensed and incredibly saddened about what happened in I.V., and it is well past time that we do something besides lay flowers down on the sidewalk at some makeshift memorial outside a convenience store, an elementary school, a church, a post office, a shopping mall … a sorority … a sandwich shop.

It’s time to offer some serious solutions, and it’s time for those solutions to be taken seriously. It’s time we reject the fearful, cynical, antagonistic rhetoric of the NRA. In fact, it’s time for the NRA and its supporters to realize: You, my friends, are part of the problem.

It’s time for mandatory gun registration, mandatory liability insurance, mandatory training, mandatory smart-gun technology, mandatory ammunition bar-coding, mandatory purchasing limits and the whole rest of the full nine yards we need to put a stop to this madness. Short of that (and I’m looking at you, gun rights obstructionists), I want to hear some goddamn solutions. No more hiding behind 2nd Amendment absolutism and parsing the words of a mixed-up, comma-spliced phrase written 250 years ago. You don’t get to do that anymore! YOU tell US: what you would do, to help make it so that no father ever has to bury his young son again.


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