Gun Violence is Not Normal

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Shootings in Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, the release of the video of the killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago and another police shooting of Mario Woods here in San Francisco make gun violence feel like the new normal.  The Community United to End Gun Violence, a group organized 3 years ago at Global Exchange, comes together every year on the anniversary of the Newtown shootings, to commemorate the lives lost to gun violence and to pledge our continued resistance.

This year I was in charge of setting up a table of remembrance at the rally — a big banner with flowers, candles and a way for people to name the names of lost loved ones. I started by carefully writing the names of the 14 people killed in San Bernardino who had just gone to work on an ordinary day. Then I added the names of people connected to Global Exchange. Jojo White was a young man whose death sparked one of the largest travel challenges to Cuba, when his parents challenged the alienation and despair felt by his friends by organizing  a trip to Cuba to protest the travel ban and learn about life on the island. Juan Francisco Sicilia, Javier Sicilia’s son who was killed in Mexico, a casualty of the continued war on drugs and whose death brought together the Caravan for Peace Justice and Dignity. In my own neighborhood Alex Nieto and Mario Woods, young men killed by police. The increase in assault-style weapons capable of maximum damage with very little skill or aim makes the police jumpy and ready to shoot to kill before they take the time assess whether or not there is any danger.

Each one of these deaths left a family with a gaping hole that nothing will ever fill, a grief so deep and impossible that the only sane response is to make sure that it never happens again.

A broad coalition of local victim’s groups, national policy groups, artists and activists came together for a day of action and gun buy back.  At $100 per gun, $200 for assault weapon, with no questions asked, the buy- back removed over 250 guns from the streets. At the library we showed a screening of “Shell Shocked” , a documentary about gun violence in New Orleans, where the murder rate is 4-6 times the national average has sparked a dialogue about what youth can do to end the violence. Finally the rally brought out politicians, faith leaders, suicide and domestic violence prevention groups and activists to the call to end the violence. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

Gun violence is the leading cause of death for African American males and young men of color in this country. “We want to go to graduations and not funerals.” said Mattie Scott, a local leader.

The day ended with a call to action:
Speak up.

  • Call your Congressional Representative to demand background checks for every gun sale. Congressional Switchboard 202 224-3121.
  • Make common sense gun laws an issue for all the candidates. Acknowledge the grief and pain of victims by acting every time there is death.
  • Insist that gun violence is a public health crisis.
  • Show up for vigils, rallies – we can’t let gun violence become the new normal and fear become our national emotion.