Santa Barbara Mourns with Charleston

Santa Barbara Mourns with Charleston

The following Oped is written by Toni Wellen, CAGV Chair: Charleston, the community of Santa Barbara understands your grief, your sorrow and pain.  We have shared the loss of loved...

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SUCCESS! 2nd Annual Gun BuyBack CAGV Collects 207 Firearms

SUCCESS! 2nd Annual Gun BuyBack CAGV Collects 207 Firearms

The Coalition Against Gun Violence, along with the professional organizing efforts of Sgt. Riley Harwood (seen in the photo above taken by Marian Shapiro) and the Santa Barbara Police Department, held a second...

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Santa Barbara Vigil Honors Charleston Victims

Santa Barbara Vigil Honors Charleston Victims

A Santa Barbara Vigil Honoring the People of Charleston and the Congregation of the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina was held Friday, June 19th on State &...

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LAURA WILCOX
March 5, 1981 — January 10, 2001
Laura’s Law was named after Laura Wilcox who was shot and killed by a seriously mentally ill person in 2001. Amanda and Nick Wilcox, Laura’s parents, worked to advocate forAssembly Bill 1421 now known as Laura’s Law, which was signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002.

Laura’s Law Update Santa Barbara

by Lynne Gibbs, Mental Health Family Advocate On April 21st, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors failed to take action on a proposal to adopt Laura’s Law in Santa Barbara...

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Action Alert: UC Regents Gun Industry Divestment

Action Alert: UC Regents Gun Industry Divestment

In the wake of the tragedy in Isla Vista, California, the University of California Santa Barbara community, Campaign2Unload.org, CAGV and others have come together to turn grief into action. Along...

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Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

Prosecutors Against Gun Violence

by Joyce Dudley, Santa Barbara County District Attorney 

Last year I joined the newly organized group of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV). This group is principally made up of elected District Attorneys from across the country, primarily from major cities.

PAGV’s mission is to focus on gun violence prevention strategies ranging from policy advocacy to improved enforcement of existing laws.

Our first meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia. At that meeting there were several excellent presentations on gun violence relating to a variety of topics including: Mental Illness, Trafficking Weapons, Domestic Violence, Legislation, and Mass Murders. At the end of that meeting we decided to create two future summits, one that focused on the nexus between gun violence and mental illness and the other on the link between gun violence and domestic violence.

Last week we met in Miami to discuss the nexus between gun violence and mental illness. I was one of the conference organizers. My role was to interview potential presenters. I interviewed and was most impressed by David A. D’Amora and Harold I. Schwartz. David is the Director of the National Initiatives Council of State Governments Justice Center in NYC. Harold is the Psychiatrist-in-Chief at The Institute of Living at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Harold also co-authored the Sandy Hook Report.

Mr. D’Amora explained that clinicians and policymakers who seek ways to reduce violence need to pay greater attention to demographics like age and gender. He also felt massive cuts to mental health care have impacted our ability to intervene early for those showing the beginning signs of mental illness. He additionally believes that we must protect against over-reaction and not leap to the false conclusion that there is a strong correlation between mental illness and gun violence. Finally, Mr. D’Amora reminded our audience to think beyond psychiatric diagnoses by prioritizing interventions that directly address trauma, substance abuse, anger, work, education, family discord, social isolation, and other criminogenic factors.

Dr. Schwartz was also deeply concerned about the lack of treatment for those suffering with mental illness but felt the criminal justice system should focus its attention on evidence-based risks such as: individuals who are convicted of violent misdemeanors; those subject to a temporary domestic violence restraining order; those convicted of two or more DUIs within five years; and, finally, those convicted of two or more controlled substance misdemeanors within five years.

Although not a speaker interviewed by me, I found Dr. Charles Nemeroff’s presentation to be the most illuminating. Dr. Nemeroff, Chairman of the University of Miami Department of Psychiatry, spoke about the strong link between those who were abused as children and those who later become perpetrators of violent crimes.

I came away from the most recent conference confident my office is on the right path by rigorously prosecuting child abusers, drug dealers, and those with relevant prior offenses, while at the same time vigorously supporting the efforts of those who seek treatment for trauma and addiction. I also felt proud of the fact that the laws and programs we have created in California are among the best, but are mere dreams for many prosecutors from other states. Still, we in California must continue to support our state legislators’ efforts to reduce gun violence in every way we can and to remain vigilant in our efforts to both educate and intervene whenever possible.

Safer in your home with a firearm, or in your vehicle with seat belts and airbags?

Safer in your home with a firearm, or in your vehicle with seat belts and airbags?

The Violence Policy Center’s (VPC) annual report states that gun deaths outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 14 states and the District of Columbia in 2011, the most recent year for which comprehensive nationwide data is available. In 2011, there were more gun deaths than motor vehicle deaths in the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia. Data is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and is the most recent available to compare death rates from both products.

In his New York Times article (7-31-14), regarding vehicle deaths, Nicholas Kristof said, “We’ve reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent — not by confiscating cars, but by regulating them and their drivers sensibly.” In this fascinating parallel, Kristof informs us that early efforts to require driver’s licenses, set speed limits or register vehicles were met with resistance. It wasn’t until the 1920s that courts routinely accepted driver’s license requirements, car registration and other safety measures. In today’s world regulations on auto designs and safety measures ranging from drunk drivers to restrictions for teenagers have proved to be effective and essential.

This is the third year the VPC has issued its annual report comparing gun deaths to motor vehicle deaths by state. Gun deaths include gun suicides, homicides, and fatal unintentional shootings; motor vehicle deaths include both occupants and pedestrians.

More than 90 percent of American households own a car while little more than a third of American households have a gun. In 2011, there were 32,351 gun deaths and 35,543 motor vehicle deaths nationwide. As a comparison, in 1999, there were 28,874 gun deaths and 42,624 motor vehicle deaths nationwide.

“Firearms are the only consumer product in America not regulated by the federal government for health and safety. Meanwhile, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline, thanks to decades of public health-based injury prevention strategies and proven consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury. Gun violence is a public health crisis with an unacceptable toll on human life. … To reduce gun death and injury, firearms must be regulated for health and safety just as we regulate motor vehicles and all other consumer products.” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.

In 1965 Ralph Nader shocked America with his book, “Unsafe at Any Speed.” This exposé of the American automobile industry’s disregard for consumer safety became a best seller that electrified the consumer advocacy movement. “Unsafe at Any Speed” showed how the automobile industry consistently ignored and even covered up the dangers their products posed for the public. The public outrage encouraged the passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in 1966, which created a regulatory agency empowered to set design standards for automobiles.

Kristof points out that, “The NRA supported reasonable gun control for most of its history and didn’t even oppose the landmark Gun Control Act of 1968. But, since then, most attempts at safety regulation have stalled or gone backward, and that makes the example of cars instructive.”

With gun deaths outpacing vehicle deaths in 14 states, approximately two-thirds of the non-gun owning public is hoping and waiting for someone like Ralph Nader to take on the gun industry.

Ed. Note: The full report can be read here: http://www.vpc.org/studies/gunsvcars14.pdf 

Well-Armed Patriot Movement American Insurgents

Well-Armed Patriot Movement American Insurgents

If gun ownership is down but gun sales are not, who is purchasing all the firearms? On the television program VICE, which airs global news documentaries, a recent segment on 3/20/15, “We the People” by Gianna Tobni, explored the growing number of Americans joining Patriot groups, taking up arms and patrolling U.S. borders. The Patriot movement did not get much hype until President Obama was elected, then membership skyrocketed from 800 groups to 1,300 with a membership of around 25,000, according to them, membership continues to expand. These insurgents feel misrepresented by the mainstream media and hold an assumption that there is an erosion of Second Amendment rights, plus an expansion of presidential powers. Their intent is to create a well-armed citizens’ militia to be prepared against what they view as the tyrannical government.

Mark Potok, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been tracking these groups for years and is seeing a large demographic change. Potok says we ignore the American radical right at our peril. The most recent incident occurred in 2014 when rancher Cliven Bundy, who has been illegally grazing cattle on federal land for 20 years without paying the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as other ranchers have done, was cited $1 million in fees and penalties. A large group of well-armed individuals blocked the roads and freeways causing BLM agents to back off. We are experiencing a period of extremism. Multiple armed groups of people have led to other violent events: the shooting at the Sikh Mosque in Oak Creek, WI was followed by eight attacks on American mosques. There was also an attack on a Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia. Jerad and Amanda Miller, who spent time with the Bundy militia, later killed two police officers in Las Vegas before they committed suicide. These insurgent militia groups see immigration as an invasion and falsely believe ISIS is coming across the US border. Such groups incite people to take up violence in the name of their cause.

Gun Industry Divestment Campaign

Gun Industry Divestment Campaign

Please join the Coalition Against Gun Violence (CAGV) in a Campaign to Divest the University of California system of its holdings in the gun manufacturing industry.

In the wake of the May 23, 2014, tragedy in Isla Vista, California, the University of California Santa Barbara community, Campaign2Unload.org, and CAGV have come together to turn grief into action. Along with students, faculty and alumni we are demanding action from the University of California: Transparency of its $88 billion endowment and a ban on all future investments in the gun industry.

The UC community deserves to know whether its institution is helping to fund gun violence; and the governing board of the University of California has a moral obligation to take a clear stance against investing in the gun industry that continues to endanger the UC community and the nation.

The Regents of the University of California must stand with UCSB and fight to prevent more senseless tragedy by pledging it will not invest in gun violence.

PLEDGE TO STAND WITH UCSB to demand that UC Regents adopt a gun-free endowment: http://www.campaign2unload.org/pledge-to-stand-with-uc-santa-barbara-and-say-not-one-more/

• SIGN THE PETITION to tell the University of California Board of Regents to take a clear stance against investing in gun violence: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/university-of-california-1

• LEARN MORE ABOUT DIVESTMENT  & the Campaign to Unload. Start a Campaign in your City or on your Campus: http://www.campaign2unload.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Divestment-Toolkit_UCSB.pdf

 

 

It Took an Act of Congress to Address Violence Against Women

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was a result of extensive grassroots efforts in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The VAWA was drafted by the office of then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) with support from a broad coalition of advocacy groups. The Act passed Congress with bipartisan support in 1994. After being renewed with little resistance in 2000 and 2005, Congress let the Act expire in 2011. The problems centered around disagreements about expanded protections for gays and lesbians, Native Americans and illegal immigrants. Read More »

Women Under the Gun: Stalking & Gun Violence

Women Under the Gun: Stalking & Gun Violence

Below is an excerpt from a June 2014 report, “How Gun Violence Affects Women and Four Policy Solutions to Better Protect Them,” by Arkadi Gerney and Chelsea Parsons of the Center for American Progress. 

Federal law prohibits a person from possessing a gun if he has committed a felony or if he has committed a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a spouse, live-in girlfriend, or woman with whom he has had a child. However, federal law places no restriction on firearm possession by a person who has committed a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence against a dating partner or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of stalking. Yet, as of 2008, more women were killed by dating partners than by spouses. Currently, federal law does not prohibit convicted stalkers or unmarried domestic abusers from buying guns. Furthermore, most states do not require background checks of private firearms sales. Offenders in these states can often avoid background checks by seeking out private sellers. Read More »

LAURA WILCOX
March 5, 1981 — January 10, 2001
Laura’s Law was named after Laura Wilcox who was shot and killed by a seriously mentally ill person in 2001. Amanda and Nick Wilcox, Laura’s parents, worked to advocate forAssembly Bill 1421 now known as Laura’s Law, which was signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002.

CAGV Supports Laura’s Law for Santa Barbara County

In California there is a lack of support services for families who attempt unsuccessfully to obtain help for a mentally ill family member. This is sometimes due to limited county facilities or lack of decent housing; therefore countless chronically mentally ill patients bounce from the street to the jail to the hospital and back again, never getting better. They may go off medication, become dangerous, and revolve through the court and mental hospital doors. This is termed “the revolving door,” which does nothing to help these patients and incurs county costs for ER visits, law enforcement, jails and court time — frustrating to all concerned.

Read More »

Investigator Lance Badger from the Santa Rosa police department shows an AK 47 assault style weapon (left) and Andy Lopez's toy replica gun (right) at a press conference at the community center in Santa Rosa, California, on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Imitation Gun Leads To Child’s Death

Editor’s Note: Last year, a Northern California deputy sheriff shot and killed a 13-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun. The officer will face no charges, because the gun looked realistic and he felt himself under threat. Tragedies like this happen all too often, as you will read below. [Image: Investigator Lance Badger from the Santa Rosa police department shows an AK 47 assault style weapon (left) and Andy Lopez's toy replica gun (right) at a press conference at the community center in Santa Rosa, California, on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle]

October 2013. Santa Rosa, California – Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old boy was fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy because the toy gun he was holding looked real. Toy guns are supposed to be differentiated by a bright orange plug at the end of the barrel. However, the tip on Lopez’s gun broke off when he dropped the gun. This is why these guns should not be made to look anything like the real guns. A small orange plug is simply not enough.

This eighth-grade boy, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, was walking near his home when Deputy Gelhaus and his partner spotted the boy from their patrol car carrying what appeared to be an AK-47. The deputies stopped their car and ordered Andy to drop the gun, but as the youth turned toward the officers, Gelhaus saw the rifle barrel rise upward and he fired eight shots at the boy, according to police accounts. The gun turned out to be an imitation AK-47 capable of shooting pellets or BBs. The orange tip of the barrel designed to distinguish the replica from a real gun had been broken off.

Northern California prosecutors will not bring criminal charges against the deputy who shot and killed a 13-year-old boy who was carrying a plastic replica of an assault rifle that the officer mistook for a real gun. The Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office concluded that deputy Erick Gelhaus “honestly and reasonably” believed he faced an imminent of threat of death or serious bodily harm to himself or others when he shot the youth. Protests were held in response to the officer being set free, however, the root of the problem is the toy itself. Without the existence of toy guns that look real that boy would not have been killed.

Andy’s “weapon” was only a pellet gun, capable of causing no more harm than a few stings.   Yet there are questions that must be asked: why are such weapons called toy guns or imitation guns. And why do parents buy toys with a potential for harm of any sort, even though they don’t envision this sort of tragedy.

A bill introduced by California State Senator Kevin de Leon since Lopez’s death would require BB and air guns to be more clearly marked as toys. Distinguishing features throughout, such as brightly colored plastic, are required for other toy guns. However, that California law requirement does not currently apply to BB and air guns.

CALIFORNIA: Ban Toy Guns That Look Like the Real Thing! PETITION HERE

Andy’s parents bought their 13-year old son an “imitation” gun, which resulted in his death. Below is a story that didn’t end in a violent tragedy, but did involve “imitation” guns, this time with third graders.

Coastal View News: “Imitation Guns Lead to Scares at Local School”

July 3, 2014. Carpinteria, Santa Barbara County, California —Three third-grade boys have been referred for expulsion. One boy allegedly brought an airsoft gun to school as requested by another boy. Other students saw the gun on campus. One of the third graders shot two boys in the legs while they were walking off-campus after school. Two weeks later, another third-grade boy had a pellet gun in his backpack and was reported by four students to whom he showed the gun in class. On his walk home he allegedly aimed it at other children who fled and told their parents who called the school.

The above local newspaper report elicited the following letter to the editor by Toni Wellen, Chair of CAGV:

TO PARENTS BUYING IMITATION GUNS: Airsoft guns and BB guns are not toys. Non-powder guns, BB, air and pellet guns are inherently dangerous weapons that can inflict potentially severe or lethal injuries, particularly on children.

Parents read these statistics: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have compiled national data on non-powder gun injuries that illustrate the inherent danger of these weapons. Between 2001 and 2011, non-powder guns injured 209,981 people nationwide, including 145,423 children age 19 or younger.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, BB guns and pellet rifles cause an average of four deaths per year.

A New York Times investigation, “In recent years, dozens of police officers in Texas, California, Maryland, Florida and elsewhere have shot children and adults armed with what they believed were handguns but that were determined later to be BB guns or other types of air pistols.”

If an Airsoft gun is used in committing a crime, the law makes no difference between replicas and real firearms. If you chose to threaten someone with anything that resembles a gun, you will be punished and risk being shot by law enforcement.

Schools are supposed to be safe havens. Historically they have been. However in the 18 months since Sandy Hook there have been 74 school shootings. Schools and parents are on edge and rightly so. What are your children experiencing emotionally during a lock down drill?

The fact that these students aimed and shot their guns, demonstrates their knowledge that this “toy” could harm. Santa Barbara County Schools have a zero tolerance policy regarding guns on campus. Parents need to consider a zero policy regarding buying a so-called toy that encourages aggressive behavior and can cause harm because the person ultimately responsible is the parent and not the child