Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 3:39 am | A Few Clouds 48º


Toni Wellen: How Much More Gun Violence Must There Be Before We Won’t Take It Anymore?

Too often after a tragic shooting we hear that prayers and condolences are not enough. The community of San Bernardino now joins so many others in a grief that never ends, and our country continues to mourn every time a life is lost to gun violence.

Toni Wellen
Toni Wellen

What is the answer to this epidemic of gun violence?

The National Rifle Association’s mantra is that America needs good guys with guns to counteract the bad guys with guns.

The San Bernardino shooter was exactly that, an apparently good guy until he (and his wife) used firearms that are illegal in California to slaughter innocent people. He held a stable, middle-class job as a food inspector for five years.

His uncle said, “I could never even imagine that it would be someone from my family. Of course, we are in shock.”

The shooter was considered a mild quiet man. However, as with many people, there are many unknowns. And there is a dark story behind this heinous act.

How long will it take Congress to hear the voice of the majority of Americans who want sensible gun violence prevention laws.

The NRA’s mantra that more guns make us safer is obviously shockingly and tragically wrong. The people who refuse to see this are elected members of Congress blocking all action to prevent gun violence in America.

On December 12-3-15, just days after 14 innocent people were shot to death and 21 wounded in San Bernardino, in a party-line vote of 21-11, the committee Republicans killed an amendment from Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., that would have blocked firearm purchases by those on the FBI’s terrorist watch list.

The voices of the people are not being heard.

However, we will not give up. The parents of Newtown are not giving up. Richard Martinez and Bill Weiss, who lost their children in the Isla Vista massacre are not giving up.

We the people must not give up. We must work together, make our voices louder, vote people who are supported by the NRA out of office.

What happened in Australia when a gunman massacred 35 people in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur in 1996? A public outcry spurred a national consensus to severely restrict firearms. They tightened laws, which were standard across Australia, and more stringent than those of any state in the United States, including California.

John Howard, the conservative prime minister at the time, pushed through the National Firearms Agreement that prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles and pump shotguns, in all but unusual cases. It tightened licensing rules, established a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases, created a national gun registry, and instituted a temporary buyback program that removed more than 20 percent of firearms from public circulation.

“It is the ready availability of weapons, particularly those that are automatic or semiautomatic, that increases the likelihood that people in a moment of madness, or malice, or hatred, will kill a lot of people,” Howard said in October 2015, after a man opened fire on a community college campus in Oregon, killing nine.

We are slowly learning more about the perpetrators of this latest mass shooting, that they had ties to terrorist organizations. It is emerging that this was possibly an act of terrorism?

There have been 355 mass shootings in 2015 in the United States, meaning four people killed in a single event. We need to view every shooting as an act of terrorism because of the terror that occurs to families and communities with even one killing.

This country has hopefully reaching a tipping point. Remember the movie Network? When Howard Beale says, “I’m mad as hell and I won’t take this anymore”? Aren’t we there yet?

At 1 p.m. Sunday, you are encouraged to attend a memorial and vigil next to Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara with the Coalition Against Gun Violence and Santa Barbara Veterans for Peace, Chapter 54, Costs of Wars Demonstration/Arlington West. Speaking will be official speakers, community leaders and the PUBLIC.

Make your voice heard.

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

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