15 Years of Activism Reducing Gun Violence
Ilene Pritikin and Toni Wellen, members of The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, attended a conference in Los Angeles, “Cease Fire! Gun Violence – the Growing Threat to Health and Safety.” The keynote speaker, Dr. Robert McAfee, President of the American Medical Society, spoke of the gun violence epidemic as a health care crisis requiring a public health solution. Ilene and Toni were inspired to organize a coalition of individuals and groups to raise awareness in the community of the dangers to society as a whole from gun violence. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation agreed to sponsor them as a project, giving them non-profit status. In December, Ann Reiss Lane, founder of Los Angles Women Against Gun Violence spoke at the first organizing meeting of 40 women at the Santa Barbara Public Library and a new organization was formed; Santa Barbara Women Against Gun Violence (SBWAGV).
The 2nd Y.E.S.! (Youth Empowerment for Safety) Fair was sponsored by the Coalition, with the valuable help of the Santa Barbara Youth Council and the Twelve35 Teen Center and with the support of the Fund for Santa Barbara and Marborg Industries on April 17th. The Fair, held outside and inside the Teen Center was an afternoon of multi-media, interactive displays, art, music and the spoken word themed around the issues of youth and non-violence. We were entertained by dancers, stand-up comics, a martial arts demonstration and an ice-cream eating contest. The audience was mesmerized by the Drama Kings, a group of young men from Los Prietos Boys Camp who described their problematic lives and their hopes for the future. Workshops were offered by Domestic Violence Solutions, The Glendon Association and The Rape Crisis Center.
The theme of our 15th Anniversary Celebration held on May 16 was—“New Decade New Challenges.” We were honored to have as keynote speaker Josh Horwitz, Executive Director of Education Fund to Stop Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Mr. Horwitz is co-author of “Guns, Democracy, and the Insurrectionist Idea,” which challenges the proposition that more guns equal more freedom and exposes insurrectionism as a true threat to freedom today. He additionally implemented an advocacy campaign in California, in which CAGV was actively involved, that led to the first state law in the nation requiring that all new models of semi-automatic handguns include microstamping technology.
It was in June of 2010 when McDonald v. Chicago, a landmark decision of the Supreme Court that determined whether the Second Amendment applies to the individual states. The Court held that the right of an individual to “keep and bear arms” is protected by the Second Amendment is incorporated by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and applies to the states. This decision opened legal flood gates to challenge existing gun control laws.
We took a stand against “Open Carry” in July, CAGV members and others joined a protest against Starbuck’s corporate policy allowing individuals to openly carry unloaded handguns in their stores. Mayors Schneider and Blum joined the protest which took place outside the Starbucks on State Street and De La Guerra.
This year was a memorial to our dearest friend, mentor and founder, Ilene Pritikin. Ilene, who had worked with many community organizations in Santa Barbara, said that the most rewarding and fulfilling time of her life was her contributions and collaboration with CAGV and the issue of reducing gun violence.
Santa Barbara tragically began to experience gun violence with several incidents resulting in fatalities. The city was also witness to two large multi-agency weapons and crime busts. For the first time CAGV reported about Americans flaunting firearms in public outside the venue in Phoenix, Arizona where President Obama was speaking. CAGV also focused on the serious issues of suicide, murder-suicide and domestic violence. Drugs and gun trafficking between the US and Mexico continued unabated. Along with all gun control organizations, CAGV encouraged Congress to close the gun show loophole where illegal guns can be purchased by Americans and potential terrorists. On May 2nd CAGV inaugurated a new event, the Youth Empowerment for Safety (Y.E.S.!) Fair at La Cumbre Jr. High School with the focus on providing Santa Barbara youth an opportunity and forum to express their thoughts and feelings about violence. Talented teens played music, sang, danced, spoke their poems, showed their art and many youth-focused organizations had display tables. Artist Zaxxr Guerro Llewellyn from Seattle exhibited a strand of 15,000 bullet casings representing the average number of people murdered in the US annually. A survey demonstrated excitement and interest for this event to be held annually. Following a rampage shooting in Alabama with an assault weapon that left 11 dead and three police officers gunned down also by assault weapons, Congress (and sixty-five pro-gun Democrats) was still unable to reinstate the 1994 assault weapon ban. AB 962 (De Leon-D, Los Angeles) passed and was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger, limiting and regulating ammunition sales. CAGV’s 14th annual luncheon featured Dr. Shane Jimerson, Associate Professor in the Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology Program at UCSB and an expert in teen bullying. He discussed his innovative development of a program for middle schools. CAGV ended its annual luncheon with the traditional Bell Ceremony of audience members ringing the Bell in honor of loved ones killed by gun violence.
The most important firearms news of the year was the decision by the US Supreme Court, basically changing the interpretation of the 2nd Amendment to mean that an individual has a right to own a gun. Gun control organizations opposed this interpretation, but view it as an opportunity now to institute and pass reasonable gun legislation and not be accused of the “slippery slope” argument of trying to ban all firearms. Nationally, on the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting, more than 70 “lie-ins” were held at various universities. Eight were held in California. The issue of smuggling guns to Mexico in exchange for drugs into the US became a major focus for both US and Mexican law enforcement – a problem that continues to mushroom according to multiple news bulletins from Mexico. CAGV’s 13th annual event, entitled, “Bullets or Crayons” featured California Assemblyman Kevin De Leon from Los Angeles and sponsor of AB 2062 regulating the sale of ammunition. Also speaking was Michael Mehas, author of “Stolen Boy” concerning the Jesse James Hollywood case. CAGV acquired its own “Bell” and again honored the victims of the Goleta tragedy, inviting others who lost loved ones to gun violence to participate in a ceremony that touched the hearts of all present.
The sobering theme this year was, “How Do We Save Our Children?” The entire nation was shocked and in mourning for the students shot down at Virginia Tech. Mayor Daly of Chicago and Rev. Jesse Jackson led a large rally in Chicago, “Stop the Violence – Save the Children – Keep Hope Alive.” Many leaders spoke out and many articles were written, but not a single major law was passed, except in California where we were successful in passing the first Crime Gun Identification Act, featuring “microstamping technology” with the support of law enforcement and great strategic grassroots efforts from across the state. CAGV’s new brochure, in partnership with Domestic Violence Solutions, the Rape Crisis Center and the Glendon Association, “Violence and Suicide are Preventable: Healing is Possible,” was completed and distributed. CAGV’s 12th annual event, “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” included what would become a traditional ceremony honoring victims of gun violence, especially the victims of the Goleta Postal shooting. Speakers Mary Leigh and Charles Blek, founders of the Bell Campaign – fiscal sponsor of the Million Mom March (MMM) – led our Bell Ceremony in honor of their 21-year old son Matthew who was killed by a robber with a Saturday Night Special handgun. The MMM merged with the Brady Campaign. Mary Leigh has addressed the United Nations regarding the regulation, sale and transfer of global firearms
Tragedy arrived in Santa Barbara County when seven murders and a suicide occurred at and near the Goleta Post Office. CAGV hosted a community forum in Goleta in response to the tragedy in order to discuss ways to prevent violence and help the community become more informed about regional resources. The panel included Goleta City Councilmember Margaret Connell, Rep. Lois Capps’ District Director, Sharon Siegel, Assemblymember Pedro Nava, Sheriff Jim Anderson, Rob Walton and Lynn Cochrane form the S.B. Dept. of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health, Jenny Benjamin from Family Service Agency and Joni Kelly from the Glendon Association. This year saw other shootings in Pismo Beach, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. The Dodge City gun shop on Calle Real in Santa Barbara was shut down by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms after a year of careful policing and observation by the S.B. Police Department along with federal agents. The California Legislature failed to pass the much lauded microstamping bill, AB 352, a bill that was heavily supported by law enforcement. This bill will be re-introduced in 2007. SBPD joined other cities in the use of Tasers as part of their “use of force” option. CAGV interviewed Police Chief Sanchez, who stated that when an officer must use a firearm that results in injury or death there are two victims. The use of a Taser is less traumatic than firing a gun. Communities across the state are passing “Lost/Stolen ordinances to combat illegal weapons. SB Mayor Blum, some City Council members and Chief Sanchez favor supporting strong state legislation as our community does not a problem with lack of reporting lost or stolen weapons. CAGV celebrated its 11th Anniversary with keynote speaker Jackson Katz, one of America’s leading anti-sexist male activists. He argued that widespread violence in American society included all school shootings, and needs to be understood as part of an ongoing crisis in masculinity.
CAGV’s Latino Education Outreach Project completed its educational video. “Armas de Fuego, La Realidad Que Destrosa Nuestras Vidas” “Firearms: The Reality That Destroys our Lives” which was premiered at the prestigious Santa Barbara International Film Festival in February. Lupe Luna-Martinez produced the initial footage using City at Peace youth as actors, along with comments by local officials. Karlos Benavides, documentary filmmaker, did the final filming, editing and English subtitles. Carol Hershey and Toni Wellen compiled a study guide that accompanies the video, which allows it to be used in other localities. This is the first Spanish language educational video about the problems of guns in the home. CAGV celebrated its 10th anniversary and was honored by Certificates of Recognition from the California State Assembly by both keynote speaker Assemblyman Paul Koretz and Assemblyman Pedro Nava. Along with a long list of law enforcement officials, mayors and other gun control groups, CAGV worked for the passage of ammunition microstamping bill AB 352 to help police solve crimes. Even as population in Californiahas soared, gun sales declined to a near all-time low from a peak of 433,822 in 1993 to 145,355 in 2004 demonstrating that more and more California families do not want handguns in their homes or near their children. Sadly the US Congress passed the immunity bill for the gun industry. In California, Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 112 and AB 1288 into law to protect Domestic Violence Victims and AB 86 maintains a record of lost and stolen guns. He also approved SB48 that focuses on age requirements for ammunition buyers.
CAGV brought the documentary film “Juvies” to Santa Barbara in a well-attended showing at the Marjorie Luke Theater. The film focuses on the draconian sentences given to teens, which often are “enhanced” due to the use or presence of a firearm. A stellar panel discussion was moderated by Judge George Eskin and consisted of the film’s director, Leslie Neale, Judge Frank Ochoa, Juvenile Justice District Attorney Jeff Gittler, Public Defender Karen Atkins, Dr. Aaron Kipnis from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Jody Kaufman from Teen Legal Clinic, Ed Cue from Teen Court and a representative from Los Compadres. CAGV was awarded a grant by The Santa Barbara Channels through the Hutton Foundation, to produce a professional PSA. CAGV was influential in the S.B. City Council’s unanimous support of AB 50, the state bill banning 50 caliber sniper rifles. This bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger.
CAGV held a well-attended community forum on the documentary “Bowling for Columbine” by Michael Moore. The moderator was Jerry Cornfield and included Mayor Marty Blum, Councilperson Babatunde Folyemi, Goleta Councilperson Margaret Connell, S.B. Police Officer Hove, UCSB Dr. Shane Jimerson, mental health expert Patricia Cooper and two high school students. CAGV had a table for each showing of the film at the Riviera for 6 weeks. CAGV instituted the GunArt project which obtained firearms collected by the S.B. Police Department, and artists photographed and video taped Oxnard Metal cutting them for future recycle into metal sculptures and other useful objects. CAGV’s9th annual dinner speaker was Andres Soto, Policy Director for the Trauma Foundation and director of the Pacific Center for Violence Prevention and also influential in working with gun control legislation. CAGV had a preview of the spanish language video in progress, a cornerstone of the Latino Project. The actors, with one exception were from City at Peace who received an award for their participation from Mayor Marty Blum and Mexican Consul Gamboa.
CAGV emphasized their focus on guns in the home and the implicit danger to children and importance of educating parents. Also part of this education is the incidence of murder-suicide, domestic abuse and whether a gun in the home makes women safer. CAGV also instituted a new program, The Latino Education Project with Lupe Luna-Martinez as co-ordinator, focusing on educational outreach to Latino families. CAGV’s 8th annual dinner speaker was Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst from the Violence Policy Center and a national authority on sniper rifles and author of “Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America.”
CAGV worked to gain support for handgun licensing and registration in the California State Legislature with two bills: AB 35 and SB 52. Through letter writing and emails, we enlisted supporters to pressure Governor Davis to sign this legislation into law, which he did in October. In April, as a response to the Santee High School tragedy, a superlative professional panel moderated by Bill Cirone, Superintendent Santa Barbara County Education Office discussed “Safety in Santa Barbara Schools” at a town meeting. The S.B. Area Council of PTAs were co-sponsors of the event. CAGV continued to focus on parental and societal responsibility regarding guns and child safety with an expanded 20/20 video presentation, which included a section on teens. CAGV began an educational campaign regarding the international issue of gun violence and the NRAs role in promoting global gun trafficking. To raise awareness regarding the proliferation of small arms and its relation to terrorism, the speaker at CAGV’s 7th annual dinner was Philip Alpers, a researcher and consultant on international gun policy and a founding member of the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). CAGV Coalition now numbered 36 community organizations.
CAGV began to educate the community about the need for gun licensing and registration. In January CAGV hosted a community forum co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara League of Women Voters, and presented the 20/20 video, “A World Full of Guns” which focused on the dangers of guns in the home. CAGV hosted a Garden Reception to build awareness and raise funds to send supporters to Washington, DC to the Million Mom March (MMM) and ran a newspaper ad on Mother’s Day. CAGV’s 6th annual dinner speakers were Mary Leigh Blek, President of the MMM and Andrew McGuire, Executive Director of the MMM. As this was a critical election year, CAGV educated the community about the platform positions of both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously to adopt a ban on the sale of junk guns. The County Board of Supervisor’s Human Relations Commission after four contentious public hearings, recommended a similar ban to the County Supervisors, who voted 3-2 to review a proposed ordinance. SBWAGV embarked on a community education project using a video from 20/20, “A World Full of Guns,” with an introduction by County Superintendent of Schools, Bill Cirone, and STAR (Straight Talk About Risks) material developed for schools by the Center for the Prevention of Handgun Violence. SBWAGV’s 5th annual dinner featured Assemblymember Jack Scott, Chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence, and introduced by Santa Barbara’s Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson. SBWAGV changed its name to Coalition Against Gun Violence (CAGV) to more accurately reflect its membership, and grew to include 32 partner organizations.
SBWAGV sponsored a panel discussion/town meeting with Santa Barbara Police Chief Breza, Babatunde Folayemi of the Pro Youth Coalition, and two former gang members, to discuss whether the community should ban the sale of junk guns. The City Council postponed action on a junk gun ordinance proposed by SBWAGV, but both the council and the Board of Supervisors affirm support of a state bill addressing the junk gun issue. SBWAGV co-sponsored Zona Seca’s children’s art exhibit for their After School Achievement Program. SBWAGV’s 4th annual dinner focused on violence in the media with Dr. Edward Donnerstein, from the University of California at Santa Barbara and director of a 3-year, national grant study on media violence involving four universities.
SBWAGV sponsored Eric Gorovitz, municipal gun violence ordinance specialist, at a public meeting where he discussed what legal action communities could take regarding gun violence. SBAGV’s newsletter memorialized Richard Poulis, who was killed by a junk gun in Santa Barbara and then sponsored a series of Cox Cable Public Service Announcements showing the danger of guns in the home. The City Council declined to enact an ordinance banning junk guns, but both Santa Barbara City and County governments, supported by both Santa Barbara City Police Chief Breza and County Sheriff Thomas, unanimously approved resolutions supporting state legislation to prohibit their sale and manufacture. The 3rd annual dinner featured Dr. Ellen Talioferro of Physicians for a Violence-Free Society. SBWAGV grew to 29 partner organizations.
A public meeting featuring Judge Denis de Bellefeuille previewed a slide show on gun violence in American society developed for community education outreach. Dozens of community groups and classrooms viewed the presentation. At a volatile Santa Barbara School Board meeting, the Board declined to adopt the NRA-sponsored Eddie Eagle program into the curriculum after many SBWAGV members spoke in protest. SBWAGV sponsored a town meeting on the topic, “Guns, Gangs and Violence.” The City Council declined SBWAGV’s suggestion that they enact ordinances requiring dealers to sell trigger locks with gun purchases and register ammunition sales. The County Board of Supervisors adopted a Mother’s Day Resolution to reduce community violence. At SBWAGV’s 2nd annual dinner, keynote speaker Police Chief Larry Todd of Los Gatos, California emphasized the menace of concealed weapons. SBWAGV sponsored a program for children at which they turned in their realistic toy guns and received T-shirts with an emblem, “Say ‘No’ to Realistic Toy Guns.”
SBWAGV received two financial grants for their new quarterly newsletter – $1,500 from Santa Barbara Foundation and $1,690 from Fund for Santa Barbara. 22 community organizations joined the coalition as partners. SBWAGV sponsored a town meeting on violence and the relationship of easy access to guns, with a panel moderated by Dr. Barbara Lindemann from Santa Barbara City College. They sponsored the first annual dinner at the University Club featuring Dr. Robert McAfee, past president of the American Medical Association as the keynote speaker.