This community opinion was written by resident Terry Butler. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
In the third week of this past May I began writing a letter to Benitolink readers about the movement to establish each month of June and each June 2 as National Gun Violence Awareness Month and Day. I had received a solicitation from an organization I had previously donated to, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, asking me to donate again and to “Wear Orange” on June 2.
My intention was to help interested citizens become aware that such a movement exists. It seems to me that as the divide widens over what to do about this issue, and as actual discourse fades, while factual, non-confrontational information is ever more widely ignored by our political parties, denounced by a certain segment of political actors and pro-gun advocates, the horrors themselves continue to increase rather than diminish. I agreed that having such a month and day would bring focus to the problem.
Then on May 26th, the mass murder of unsuspecting workers at Valley Transit Authority facility in San Jose took place. See this page at Wikipedia for full information.
I imagine I wasn’t the only local person who immediately remembered the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting of July 28, 2019.
I was deeply struck for the first time by the awareness of how close these things are to us in Hollister. I began to see much more media alarm in print, TV and online. Here are a couple of headlines from earlier this month:
Washington Post: “2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in decades. So far, 2021 is worse.”
KTLATV News: “With 8 people killed, San Jose becomes 15th U.S. mass shooting so far in 2021.”
And here is an excerpt from an online article at TimeMagazine.com June 4 2021: “2020 was one of the worst years for gun violence on record in America. That surge hasn’t slowed down in 2021. More than 8,200 people—a number that represents those who have been victims of homicides and unintentional shootings—have been killed this year as of June 3, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA). Last year, that total number of fatalities was 19,402; in 2019, it was 15,447.
And in the first three months of 2021, the homicide rate in many larger cities increased by over 20% compared to the same time period last year, according to the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice (NCCCJ). Gun assault rates also increased by 22%.
Over Memorial Day weekend, traditionally seen as the beginning of the summer months, a mass shooting in Miami outside a banquet hall left two people dead and 23 people shot. Video of the incident shows a crowd of people waiting outside of the venue as three men got out of a vehicle with weapons and opened fire. No arrests have been made.
In New York City, there were nine shooting incidents on Memorial Day itself—with 12 people reportedly shot over a six-hour period. In Philadelphia, 16 people were shot over the holiday weekend. There were multiple shooting incidents reported in Houston and Dallas.
Overall there were more than 100 shooting victims across the country during the long holiday weekend. That grim figure is not an outlier by any means, but the latest tally in a consistent trend of deadly weekends—and weekdays—across the U.S.”
I began trying to salvage what I’d already written, but then scrapped attempt after attempt to write my opinion piece. Seemingly each new day brought word of more gun related deaths all across the nation.
Mind-boggling laws were passed: Texas Tribute—“Texans can carry handguns without a license or training starting Sept. 1, after Gov. Greg Abbott signs permit-less carry bill into law.”
Closer to home, a federal judge appointed during the G.W. Bush era tossed a long-standing California law banning the AR15 assault weapons. CNN—“Federal judge overturns California’s ban on assault weapons and likens AR-15 to Swiss Army knife.”
I had to ask myself and a few friends: are some people not desirous of living in a society free of fear of being randomly gunned down? Do they feel that if they can carry a weapon in public that a deranged shooter will somehow be intimidated? Are there gun advocates who seriously believe we don’t need more control of assault weapons? It seems the answer to these questions is “yes.”
Yes, there is such a disconnect in our personal views of what constitutes “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that a minority of laissez faire gun advocates is on a path to being allowed to dominate a majority who thinks that easy gun availability is harmful and dangerous to our safety and health.
The Pew Research Center finds that:
“Around half of Americans (48%) see gun violence as a very big problem in the country today, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in April 2021. That’s comparable to the share who say the same about the federal budget deficit (49%), violent crime (48%), illegal immigration (48%) and the coronavirus outbreak (47%). Only one issue is viewed as a very big problem by a majority of Americans: the affordability of health care (56%).
Another 24% of adults say gun violence is a moderately big problem. About three-in-ten say it is either a small problem (22%) or not a problem at all (6%).”
The article goes on to break the findings down into various sub-groups and overall is quite a fascinating look at how Americans view major problems that we must all face together. But it clearly shows that pro-gun control sentiment is stronger today than its opposite.
A 2019 study by USA Today in conjunction with Suffolk University shows that “The vast majority of registered voters across the U.S. (90 percent) say that all firearms sales should require background checks, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll of registered voters. Even among gun-owning households, 90 percent support background checks”
Therein we find the same old underlying “who, what, why” questions about all of the worrisome trends we see now in our increasingly divided nation. We are marginalized by a broken political system that pits people against each other by buying and selling influence and legislation, and subverts morality through lobbying and exploiting every politician’s need for funds in order to maintain personal power and influence.
But we all know there are solutions. They range from very strict gun and ammo controls that all western nations but one employ. There are relatively new ideas regarding tech devices that make guns usable only by their registered owner, and some people are talking about licensing and insurance remedies similar to vehicle ownership, while others are joining the numerous grass roots political organizations that are springing up to force political change. What these activities all have in common is a need for citizens of good will to come together and talk.
And to listen.
Its common among our families nowadays to find strong opinions on both sides of almost any issue. Dependent largely on the source of one’s opinion you and your brother may agree on some things but not on others. Your Aunt may seem to have lost her bearings in her support for one politician over another. Even spouses may find disagreement over policy or practice in the society at large. But if we erect walls around our opinions, decide that there is no way to accomplish change for the better, if we stop interacting except for trivial conversation nothing is accomplished. We need to listen, contemplate and find common ground. Easy to talk about, right? But so very hard to do.
One thing we can all agree on is that inaction is deadly. That’s why I’m again making an attempt to get a dialogue flowing about gun safety issues that can be conducted without rancor and with the common good foremost.
If you are enraged by any of what I’ve written, please don’t respond just to call names and impugn my motive. If you have verifiable information counter to any of what I’ve written, please do respond. If you have studied the issue as I have and find yourself agreeable, suggest something that might broaden the conversation.
In a previous attempt on this site I learned something from a man with whom I had before thought to have not much in common: the late Marty Richman. Marty surprised me by agreeing that further education about the control of weapons and ammo is important. He agreed that the discussion was necessary and that the money influence needs to be exposed. Where we differed was on the method.
Marty struck me as being much more “conservative” politically than I and he once referred to me as “a liberal” in a sentence that reeked of disdain. But he also impressed me with his knowledge of state and federal law and with statistical analyses of the issue. I found his innate humanity in his overarching concern for the huge numbers of gun accidents and suicides we suffer here in the US.
I’ll close with this scenario: suppose Texas style open carry of unregulated guns becomes the norm. Suppose “Ghost Guns” (Google it) become as common as cell phones. Suppose a march for some cause or policy or against some activity or belief occurs that is widely disagreed upon. Suppose again that the march is attended by angry people on both sides of the issue.
What could possibly go wrong?
North County resident since 1989