Since the tragic shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown five years ago, half a million Americans have been killed or injured by guns. This year, 38,000 lives have been lost to gun violence. Our own community has experienced grief and trauma with the loss of two in Las Vegas, three members of the Han family, six UCSB students, and six post office workers in Goleta.
The Santa Barbara community joins Newtown Alliance and thousands of others across the country in a national vigil to remember and #HonorWithAction the lives lost to the ongoing epidemic of gun violence in the United States. You are invited to attend the 5th Annual National Vigil Honoring Victims of Gun Violence, Thursday, December 14, 2017: Coalition Against Gun Violence (CAGV) and Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara will host an Interfaith Vigil 5:30-6:30 p.m., Unitarian Society Sanctuary, 1535 Santa Barbara Street.
Today, as 2017 draws to a close, we find ourselves within six degrees of separation from someone who’s been either killed or wounded by gun violence; a family member, friend or someone in our school, office, neighborhood, or community has been victimized by a gun. We are all touched by gun violence.
Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher, was gunned down in Isla Vista, spoke at UCSB days later saying, “I never thought about gun violence until I lost my son, Chris.” One year later, after another shooting that left three wounded, he stated that this incident was “the worst kind of reminder that gun violence can happen at any time and any place.” What happens when the shock of these needless tragedies hits close and becomes personal? Your life is forever changed. For those of us who are four, five, or six degrees away from that unforgiving pain, what is our reaction?
When we read about the numbers of mass shootings this year, the numbers of people shot, the numbers of children killed by guns, the numbers of suicides and domestic violence tragedies, these are not just numbers. Each number has a face, a loved one, family, friends, and coworkers. Every time there is another shooting, these survivors relive their grief.
November 28-29, 2017, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley and other members of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence convened an emergency summit in Washington, D.C., on gun violence. Dudley told the Coalition, “After spending two days in D.C. learning about this year’s gun legislation, and personally lobbying legislators from across the aisle and across the country, I am more convinced than ever that the best way to protect the people of Santa Barbara County from gun violence is to remain knowledgeable, active, and vigilant.”
In the wake of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history, Congress is preparing to pass a bill that will weaken California gun laws and make us less safe. On Wednesday, November 29, the House Judiciary Committee advanced the vote for HR 38, Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which will force states with strong laws that prohibit the concealed carrying of firearms to honor permits from other states that allow the concealed carry of firearms. This proposal will endanger public safety and make it nearly impossible for law enforcement to enforce the laws of their state. Call Congress today at (202) 242-3121. Tell them to vote “no” on HR 38, Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017.
The constant reality of death by gun is that we are all affected by gun violence. This is not a political issue. This is a public health and safety crisis. Tragically, the toll of death by gun has risen from 30,000 annually to 38,000. Why? The lethality of today’s firearms has increased, as easy accessibility has also increased, and 40 percent of guns sold do not go through background checks.
No other country in the western world has this level of violence attributable to firearms. America’s culture of violence provides a crucible for permissible murderous acts. We must demand an end to the politics of death and sorrow. We’ve had enough prayers and tears. Millions of families will grieve for a lifetime. We must consider both the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights. More guns have proven America has more gun deaths.
To do nothing is acceptance. Do something! Find a gun violence prevention organization near you. In Santa Barbara, it’s at sbcoalition.org.
Toni Wellen is chair of the Coalition Against Gun Violence.