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Posted on 06.05.2014 1:47 p.m.

Coalition Against Gun Violence Calls Isla Vista Tragedy an Opportunity for Action

Source: Toni Wellen for the Coalition Against Gun Violence

A cloud of grief and sorrow has descended upon our community. The inspiration to heal has been demonstrated by the Isla Vista community and the UCSB students, faculty and employees.

Multiple officials and community agencies rapidly responded, notably the Santa Barbara Response Network, to provide psychological first aid and counseling, which will continue as long as needed.

At the UCSB and Isla Vista vigils, we lit candles in solidarity for the pain and suffering felt by families and friends who lost loved ones, giving strength in response to senseless violence with compassion. We are grateful for the millions who choose to respond to the vicissitudes of life not with hate and confrontation but with knowledge and understanding.

Americans cannot allow this to be the “new normal.” Instead, we must use the empathy and compassion expressed by thousands of people as inspiration for our community. That does not prevent us from knowing that killing our fellow human beings with a gun is not an acceptable response to anger or resentment.

Across the nation, doctors are speaking out against gun violence. A study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicates that gun ownership does not make a country safer. The report also found another factor in the level of gun violence: "Mentally ill people who are not in treatment, are more violent than the rest of the population."

When over 30,000 people die each year from gun violence, we have a public health problem of vast dimensions that is only highlighted during a horrific tragedy such as occurred in Isla Vista or Sandy Hook. The stated agenda of the Coalition Against Gun Violence is to educate the entire community to understand that gun violence is a public health menace to each of us and requires everyone to take stand. Such a stand was taken when victim Chris Martinez’s father forceful stated, “Not One More.”

We can agree: There are too many gun deaths in America — averaging 87 each day, over 30,000 each year, which means gun violence is a public health menace.

We can agree: Guns are here to stay. No one’s going to take your gun away — it’s a fear tactic used by the gun lobby. Gun violence prevention organizations don’t talk about banning all guns. They talk about reasonable gun policies and work closely with law enforcement and elected officials.

We can agree: Americans must examine what so many have spoken about — our culture of violence. Media violence does have an effect on adults and children. What does that mean when there are millions of us who do not embrace violence as a prism through which we see the world?

Mass shootings shock the nation into an awareness, as yet another horrific slaughter of innocents by gun violence occurs. The American people must take action to prevent these tragedies from happening. And happen they do every day. You can take action in this community by joining the Coalition Against Gun Violence as an active member or as a supporter. Visit our website by clicking here.

Consider this action: If you have a gun in your home, perhaps it’s time to consider it not as a means for safety but a dangerous killing instrument — unwanted in your home. The Coalition Against Gun Violence, in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Police Department, is holding the first-ever gun buyback from 8 a.m. to noon June 14 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.

For more information, visit our website by clicking here or call 805.564.6803.

— Toni Wellen is chairwoman of the Coalition Against Gun Violence.

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