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Don’t Accept Gun Violence as ’The New Normal’

Alex M. Johnson

Robbie Ramirez, 10, holds onto his father, Robert Ramirez, during a vigil for victims of a shooting that left three people dead at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Monday, July 29, 2019, in Gilroy, CA. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Aug. 5, 2019Another tragedy caused by gun violence. And another. And another. And yet another. At least 29 people killed in less than 24 hours in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Just a few days prior, here in California, we were shocked and saddened by the shootings at The Gilroy Garlic Festival and in the San Fernando Valley that claimed the lives of 6 people.

Gun violence happens every day in our state and across the nation, but these four horrific incidents have captured national headlines and again focused the spotlight on the deadly combination of guns and hate. People’s lives were senselessly cut short as they went about their day-to-day life.We refuse to accept this as the new normal.

The California Wellness Foundation has been committed to gun violence prevention since our founding in 1992. We believe that gun violence is a public health issue, one that damages entire communities and particularly impacts communities of color disproportionately.

When is enough truly enough? When will common sense replace stubbornness and reasonableness be substituted for willful indifference?

No one deserves to be afraid

The bottom line is simple: Families shouldn’t be afraid to gather. And people have the right to feel safe as they go about their daily lives. It’s past time to get serious about ending gun violence.

Here in California, we have the strongest gun policies in the nation. And yet we will always be at risk until strong federal policies nationwide are in place to curb gun violence. The military-style semiautomatic rifle used in the Gilroy shooting was bought legally in Nevada by a teenager, a purchase that would have been prohibited by law in California, and then transported across state lines. Nationwide solutions will make our states and local communities safer.

The debates around this issue evoke impassioned responses. However, at its core this is not about petulant politics—this is about protecting people. People who want to experience the fullness of their lives and thrive. Mothers and fathers who want to see their children grow. Children who want to go to sleep at night hearing the sound of their parent’s voice.

We can’t lose sight of the everyday gun violence that permeates our communities on a daily basis, the incidents that don’t often make headlines. A quick review of  Gun Violence Archive makes clear that everyday gun violence is a pervasive national issue—and it’s not going away anytime soon.

The impact of gun violence

The unfortunate truth is that every year, gun violence kills more than 3,000 Californians. Gun violence poses a daily threat to the health and safety of our communities. Gun violence leaves lasting scars on communities, and young people exposed to gun violence experience ongoing trauma and harmful health impacts.

What can we do? As funders, we need to come together to identify collaborative solutions that are focused both on prevention as well as the immediate after-effects of violence. And if you’re not a funder, there are opportunities for you to educate yourself on the issue, take a stand, and make an impact (see resource list below). We also need to not lose sight of the fact that community-driven prevention strategies have successfully reduced gun violence in cities across the state and nation.

We mourn for the victims and their families. The typical playbook is to offer “thoughts and prayers” and then wait for the tragic moment to fade from the headlines. But as we wait, people die.

We cannot allow yet another tragedy to occur, children to perish, and sit idly by. So get enraged, agitate, activate, organize, and do something. If not now, then when?

Gun violence is not normal. Enough is enough.

If you’re feeling discouraged in the wake of these tragedies, know that you can make a difference. Please take a look at these resources:

Alex Johnson
Program Director Alex M. Johnson

Alex M. Johnson is a program director at The California Wellness Foundation, where he manages grantmaking related to preventing violence and strengthening community clinics.

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