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Letter to the Editor: Remember and Recommit to End Gun Violence

When you look at the faces of the 20 children and six educators of Sandy Hook Elementary School whose lives were so violently taken on Dec. 14, 2012, your heart stops, your heart breaks. Sadly, each day in America eight children’s lives are violently ended with a firearm — equivalent to a Sandy Hook every three days.

Saturday, Dec. 14, will mark one year since the families of these young souls were gunned down, their lives lost forever. That is how long a parent and loved ones grieve over the loss of a child — forever.



Think then of the six Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers who instantly knew what they and their children were facing; they had to protect, to give their lives without a doubt. As a teacher you always look at your class as "your children," because they are.

About 275 people are shot every day — about 85 die and about 195 survive. 30,000 Americans have died since the slaughter of these 20 innocent children and six adults in Newtown, Conn. Why do we minimize the carnage with our messaging? The physical, emotional and economic toll to those who survive a gunshot is staggering. In the United States, a person is hit with a bullet every five minutes! 

Josh Stepakoff was 6 when he was shot twice in the leg in 1999 at the North Valley Community Center in Los Angeles by Buford Furrow; five people were wounded, including three children. He is among many people who have witnessed the horrific sights and sounds of a mass shooting as a very young child. Like the children of Newtown, Conn., he saw blood, he heard screams and he was scared for his life. Afterward, he said he couldn’t be a normal child. As a teenager, Stepakoff decided to do work with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and found solace in talking to other victims. Many survivors and family members become involved in gun violence prevention groups in hopes of preventing others from going through what they experience daily.

There will be more talk about the “troubled” shooter now that the Connecticut police report has been released. There are millions of troubled children and adults. Certainly America needs to allocate more money for mental health and take actual concrete steps in communities to help people suffering with emotional problems. Every time there is shooting, we read that the killer was disturbed, mentally ill or had a troubled childhood. However, only 5 percent of the mentally ill are considered dangerous.

We all suffer emotional responses to the crises in our lives. But when a gun is handy, then the anger, the depression takes an ugly violent turn. And what we know is that there are too many guns, and more guns mean more murders and more gun suicides. Realize that many of these mass shooters were angry, depressed males who wanted to commit mayhem and then suicide.

Why? There are too many whys. The country was and continues to be shocked, and yet the carnage goes on day after day. The battles against gun violence prevention laws go on in Congress and state legislatures have gotten as virulent as the battles on the streets and in the homes of this nation as Americans continue to die needlessly from gun violence.

Put your concerns into action, because the shooting war goes on in our nation daily. What motivates those of us who work avidly for gun violence prevention?

An interfaith memoriam service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1500 State St. in Santa Barbara, from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Remember and recommit. Join us.

— Toni Wellen, chairwoman
Coalition Against Gun Violence

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