By Ann Daniels
ACT NOW! It’s almost Election Day! – If you’ve already voted, thank you! Your action item for the week is to forward this article to every East Bay resident you know who hasn’t yet voted. If you haven’t voted: there’s still time, and we’re here to help. This article has two parts. First, practical assistance about casting your ballots. Then, food for thought about the role of gun control in the hugely important District Attorney races in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, in light of the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, Laguna Woods – and the hundreds more mass shootings of all kinds this year that you may not have heard about, including more than a dozen over Memorial Day weekend alone, as documented by the Gun Violence Archive.
What you can do:
1. Cast your ballot!
With the pandemic still in full swing-your-partner mode, there are lots of ways to return your ballot with the full range of human contact – from zero to voting in person. Check out the Secretary of State’s website for general info; click here for info about Alameda County; here for Contra Costa; and here’s a great article from Oaklandside about all things Oakland. And, here’s our earlier article.
2. WWDAD (What Would the DA Do)?
What should the basic function of the District Attorney be: to be tough on crime? To prevent crime? To get guns off the streets? To restore justice to the justice system? To end the school-to-prison pipeline? In light of the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, we took a look at what the candidates for DA in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties had to say – about that slaughter, the constant scourge of mass shootings in this country, and gun violence in general. We found less than we thought we would. Here’s our summary:
Contra Costa County: Diana Becton, the incumbent, is running for re-election. Her opponent is Deputy DA Mary Knox.
- DA Becton issued a short statement immediately after the Uvalde massacre. Becton was the only East Bay DA candidate for whom we could find any statement about Uvalde.
- Becton’s campaign website says: “I… support sensible gun control, gun buy-back programs, and a ban on assault-style weapons. I am also a proud participant of programs such as Ceasefire, which shows the strength of community engagement to reduce gun-violence.”
- Knox has served on the Community Violence Reduction Unit Supervisor Targeting Mass Murder and Gun Violence and has supported ShotSpotter, which many reports have pointed out is a problematic technology.
- Knox’s campaign website does not contain any obvious information about her stance on gun control or gun safety. Indeed, it doesn’t contain any obvious info about any issues, other than her “3-point plan to prevent smash-and-grab retail theft” – which does not mention guns.
Alameda County: We couldn’t find any statements by any of the four DA candidates on the Uvalde shooting. Our research revealed some information about the candidates’ positions on gun violence and gun safety, and what they’d plan to do if elected – more info about some candidates than about others:
- Price’s campaign website lists “Reduce Gun Violence” as Point #2 in her “Ten Point Program.”
- In answer to a candidate questionnaire, Price said: “I understand that [gun violence] is not a problem that can be addressed by incarceration alone. I will work tirelessly to make sure schools and community-based organizations have the resources they need to help ensure that every young person has access to mental health services, a quality education and employment opportunities. I will work with law enforcement, educational institutions, community-based organizations, and the faith community to identify the root causes of gun violence, funnel resources toward addressing those issues, and build safer, healthier communities for everyone. I support increased gun violence reduction strategies as a means of addressing the shocking rate of gun-related deaths in our country.”
- In 2019, after the mass murder at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Price wrote an article arguing for the elimination of the Second Amendment.
- Steward’s campaign website enumerates the ten-point “Seth’s Platform” that includes gun control and combating gun violence under Point 2, “Focus on Violent Crime” (“Prioritizing cases involving gun violence; and [s]upporting common sense gun safety laws: banning ghost guns, expanding background checks”) and under Point 3, “Lead Outside of the Courtroom” (“work with public health community partners to approach gun violence as a public health crisis”)
- As part of his work with Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb, Steward has worked to ban “ghost guns” – untraceable guns built at home from mail-order kits. In a recent forum, Steward called for “banning ghost guns, banning ghost-gun kits and having background checks” throughout Alameda County. He called on the rest of the county to join Oakland in banning ghost guns.
- Like Mary Knox in Contra Costa, Wiley has a campaign website where you’ll search in vain for a mention of gun control, or indeed any list of issues and the candidate’s stances on them. (Is absence of issues a new style in campaign websites? ugh)
- In a recent candidate forum, Wiley highlighted “eradicating gun violence” as a priority.
- Wilson’s campaign website highlights the crisis of gun violence and homicide in Oakland under his “Vision” to “Target Violent Crime”: he says that “guns – including Ghost Guns, automatic weapons, and other weapons of war – are prolific on our streets” – but he does not include a platform specifically directed to reducing gun violence per se.
- Wilson has called for a return of the DA’s former gang unit – or “crime suppression unit,” as he calls it. “We proactively worked to get them to put their guns down … When you stop doing that you can’t suppress crime. You surely can’t suppress gun violence.”
- Wilson has set up and attended community forums on gun violence and violent crime.
Ann G. Daniels has enjoyed a checkered background: attorney, reproductive rights advocate, web content creator, literacy teacher, craftsperson, perpetual nerd, occasional rabble-rouser.