We in Santa Barbara wish to extend our expressions of condolence to the families and the people of Charleston. And at this moment we must also be aware that every parent and family member who has lost a loved one to gun violence relives those wrenching moments of loss for the rest of their lives. Charleston, the community of Santa Barbara understands your grief, your sorrow and pain. We have shared the loss of dear friends to gun violence and know the angst that remains. Knowing you will never see your child live a full life, knowing you will never again feel the arms of your loved one around you.
There is an animus, a profound anger that exists among a small segment of our population. A fear fed by extremists in our society that encourages intolerance of “the other,” people perceived as different and not “one of us.” Touting Second Amendment rights, these individuals suggest the imperative to “arm up,” carry firearms everywhere, and be prepared to use them against their fellow Americans. This rhetoric of suspicion sows seeds of anger especially in unstable individuals.
Each time there is a shooting, we hear the words “disturbed” and “mentally ill.” Such words malign the large number of Americans struggling with emotional problems who are not violent. Yes, we must pay attention and offer concrete help to the population of mentally ill people who live in our families and communities. A majority of Santa Barbarans would like Laura’s Law, court-ordered treatment for the severely mentally ill, to be adopted in Santa Barbara County. Motivated by the Isla Vista tragedy, California recently passed a temporary gun violence restraining order law that enables families and law enforcement to temporarily prevent potentially violent people from possessing firearms.
President Obama, speaking in San Francisco on June 19, 2015, said, “You don’t see murder on this kind of scale, this kind of frequency in any other advanced nation on Earth. I refuse to act as if this is the new normal or to pretend it is simply sufficient to grieve and that any mention to do something to stop it is simply politicizing the problem.”
Murder by gun has become a political issue because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has successfully created and enforced that concept through intimidation. Congress is unable to pass the universal background checks and ban on large ammunition clips that 90 percent of Americans want because politicians are intimidated by the NRA and not influenced by the river of tears that flow from the literally millions of Americans affected by gun violence. Voices crying out for reasonable gun violence prevention laws in Congress have been silenced, buried by the millions spent by the NRA to continue manufacturing highly dangerous killing instruments.
Perhaps this will be the moment when Americans stand up to the NRA, the craven politicians, and the gun enthusiasts who care more about their “rights” than their fellow citizens’ safety and say, “Enough, our lives are more important than your guns.” Or will we just go on with our lives, numb to the reality that another mass shooting will occur?
Those of us who are working to find ways to reduce gun violence know that it is not enough to grieve and offer prayers for stricken families. We have cried out with Richard Martinez, “Not one more.” If you have had enough and are motivated to take a stand and work for gun violence prevention, there is a place for you and your ideas in the Coalition Against Gun Violence, a grassroots nonprofit in Santa Barbara. CAGV just held its successful second annual gun buyback, where the 207 firearms turned over to the Santa Barbara Police Department will never be used to cause a family grief. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 564-6803.
The Coalition Against Gun Violence and its many supporters mourn with Charleston and the millions of gun violence survivors across America. We stand together and shout, “Not One More.”