Rep. Swalwell’s community forum on ending gun violence & domestic terrorism

By Ward Kanowsky

Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) held a standing room only town hall meeting dedicated solely to the issue of gun violence at Hayward City Hall on August 7, 2019. During his opening comments at the “Community Forum on Ending Gun Violence & Domestic Terrorism,” Swalwell said he had just met with the heads of various law enforcement agencies, including local police departments, state operations, and the FBI, to discuss the threat assessment of gun violence primarily from white nationalist organizations, and the readiness of law enforcement. The feedback he received is that the threat level is high; he also has confidence that first responders in the law enforcement community are ready in the event of another shooting.

Notwithstanding this confidence, Swalwell emphasized that Congress needs to respond legislatively, and it needs to do so in the short term. Most importantly, he said that the background checks bill (H.R. 1112), which has passed the House, must be voted on by the Senate now, even if that means calling the entire body back into session from the current recess. (Read our recent article on this issue, with a call to action, here.) In response to a question from the audience about Senator Mitch McConnell blocking any efforts for such a vote, Swalwell called on one of the Senators now running for president to stand up and filibuster for a vote.

Other steps Rep. Swalwell urged to address ongoing gun violence are changes to laws on domestic terrorism and banning and buying back the 15 million assault weapons now in the hands of Americans. He noted that, with the recent tragedies in El Paso and Dayton and the NRA being “on the ropes,” the ban/buyback proposal continues to gain traction among the Democratic presidential candidates: former VP Joe Biden, Senators Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg are all open to or have come out in support of such a program. [Editor’s note: see this August 10 ABC News article for more information about where the 2020 Democratic candidates stand on gun control; and Politico’s web page, currently updated to August 14, with candidates’ views on gun control].

During the hour-plus Q&A session, constituents and others were able to express their views and concerns on the issue of gun violence and offer additional ideas for reducing the number of shootings. A teacher bluntly stated that ”more kids are afraid of dying at school.” Swalwell acknowledged these fears and reiterated the importance of getting guns off the streets, as opposed to proposals like arming teachers that would make a bad situation worse. A student from Baylor University in Texas proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns, while another attendee suggested a federal tax on firearms. Swalwell was open to both of these ideas. In response to one constituent’s proposal that the Second Amendment be repealed, Swalwell disagreed, and said we need to do a better job of interpreting the Amendment.

Addressing gun violence was the signature issue of Swalwell’s brief run for president and it remains a top priority for him as a member of Congress.

If you have questions or want to participate with the CA-15 team, contact Ward on Slack at @ward or by email at wardkanowsky@gmail.com

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photograph of Rep. Swalwell by LeAnn Kanowsky

Bring Back the Senate for Gun Control

What a shame Congress can’t do anything to stop this country’s epidemic of mass shootings and deaths by white supremacist gun violence. Except, oh wait, they can. And they have. Or rather, they would. Except Mitch McConnell won’t let them.

The House of Representatives passed two gun control bills in February 2019: H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, which would require background checks for private gun sales (think online sales and gun shows); and H.R. 1112, which would extend the waiting period from the background check system before a sale can proceed, from the current three days to ten days. Normally, the bills would now go to the Senate and be referred to the appropriate committees. Instead, McConnell placed them on the Senate calendar, which sounds good but isn’t, it actually means they’re just … sitting there, while more people die.

In addition, the Senate has before it S. 42, introduced in January 2019 and cosponsored by both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, which would prohibit a firearm transfer between private parties unless a licensed gun dealer, manufacturer, or importer first takes possession of the firearm to conduct a background check. The bill is in the Judiciary Committee, which both of our Senators sit on – and which is chaired by Lindsey Graham, whose support for gun control is limited to talking about “red flag” laws, which allow local law enforcement officials to temporarily seize guns from people who may pose a risk to themselves or others.

Meanwhile, mass shootings go on. And on. And the Senate is in recess, with the GOP offering its usual thoughts and prayers.

Senators Feinstein and Harris have both called for the Senate to act:

The House has already passed a universal background check bill that would make it harder for dangerous people to buy guns. The Senate could return to Washington this week and vote on that bill, but Senate Republican leaders continue to say no.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, August 4, 2019 

The Bipartisan Background Checks Act passed the House in February—but it hasn’t even received a hearing in the Senate. It’s past time to take action. To Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans, I say: have some courage. Let’s vote.

Sen. Kamala Harris, August 5, 2019 

Amen, and amen.

What you can do:

1. Call Sens. Feinstein and Harris. It may not seem like they need your call since they’re already doing the right thing, but remember: the NRA will always mobilize its membership and you can be sure that our Senators are hearing loud and clear from gun control opponents. They need to hear from US!

What to say:

My name is ____________, my zip code is _________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank Senator _________ for supporting gun control legislation. The Senator is right: the Senate needs to reconvene, now, to vote on H.R. 8 and H.R. 1112. Trump is cheering on white supremacist violence and Mitch McConnell is enabling it by refusing to let the Senate vote on these bills. Also, I hope the Senator will use her position on the Judiciary Committee to do everything possible to pass S. 42.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

2. Support these organizations:

 

Graphic: “U.S. Senate To Increase Work Days” by Mike Licht

December 2018 meeting with Feinstein staff

On December 10, 2018, Indivisible East Bay had our first meeting with Senator Feinstein’s new interim state director Peter Muller. We met field representative Abby Ellis in the senator’s San Francisco office and Peter, who is based in Los Angeles, joined us by phone.

While climate change is always a high priority for IEB and usually makes our meeting agendas in some form, it’s rarely at the very top of our memo — mainly because that space is generally filled by a reaction to the latest crisis coming out of the White House. So it was a promising sign of the power shift in DC that we started with a discussion of the Green New Deal (GND). Peter said that while Sen. Feinstein isn’t yet familiar with the details of the Green New Deal proposal, as far as he could tell she’s generally supportive of the program and would invest more time in learning about it once it’s a bit further advanced in the House.

We brought up the plan Feinstein supports to extend certain controversial provisions in the WIIN Act, a water bill which, among other things, diverts water south of the Delta. We shared our concerns that the extension of those provisions could result in harm the Delta ecosystem, but Peter said that Sen. Feinstein’s office has examined the matter carefully and doesn’t believe the provisions have been harmful so far or will become so if extended.

We also talked about asylum seekers at the California-Mexico border and those being detained (along with other immigrants) throughout the state. Sen. Feinstein still wants to visit the detention facilities herself, but doesn’t yet have plans to do so. Meanwhile, her staff has visited every facility in California in which immigrants are detained, as well as some in Texas. But it’s been hard to perform oversight, because the facilities know they are coming and are able to prepare. Sen. Feinstein continues to work on getting legislation ready to pass at the earliest opportunity. (First we need to elect more Democrats.) We asked her to prioritize addressing the seemingly unnecessary “metering” at ports of entry that is causing a humanitarian crisis in which asylum seekers are forced to choose between waiting in overflowing shelters in Mexico — with complete uncertainty about having their claims heard — or attempting dangerous, illegal crossings and turning themselves in at understaffed remote outposts. And meanwhile we asked her to look at ways she could collaborate with the House concerning funding for immigration enforcement, particularly with respect to making sure the executive branch spends the money in the way Congress intended.

We discussed delays in funding transit projects — Sen. Feinstein does her best to advocate for projects in California but doesn’t have much influence otherwise; Attorney General nominee William Barr — she shares our concerns about his civil rights record and biases; judiciary appointments — Republicans are happy with how this is going. so we are likely to see more of the same; and homelessness — she has a bill ready and is looking for a Republican co-sponsor.

Finally, we asked what the senator’s hopes and dreams are for working with our new blue House. Peter listed:

  • Immigration
  • Gun Control – Peter said that Sen. Feinstein saw a strong opportunity for a bump stock ban (which the White House announced only days later)
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Immigration enforcement oversight
  • Appropriations – put more constraints on the administration
  • Health care
  • 2016 election investigation – help her better leverage her position on the Judiciary Committee

 

Swalwell final 2018 Town Hall

By Ward Kanowsky

Close to 450 attendees braved the wind and rain to join Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) on December 1 at Dublin High School for his last town hall of 2018.  Swalwell gave an overview of HR 1, the new Congress’ first major piece of legislation in 2019, touching on key issues of voting rights and dark money and also pledging to expand investigations so that the Oval Office is not used by the current occupant as an “opportunity to cash in.” On the issue of immigration, Swalwell said that despite threats of a government shutdown, he would never vote to fund the wall; rather, we need to focus on the “root cause” of the immigration crisis and work with other countries to help them address the poverty and violence within their own borders.

Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Rep. Swalwell Town Hall, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

Some of the other issues discussed during Swalwell’s opening comments and during Q&A included:

  • Trump’s tax returns: “We will see them.” The House Ways and Means Committee could request the returns right now without a vote, but Swalwell thinks it will likely still go through the courts. Every President since Nixon has released their tax returns, and “we need to do an MRI” on Trump’s financial interests.
  • Impeachment: “The best thing for democracy is for Trump to be impeached,” but we need an impeachable case. “We don’t want to make a martyr out of him.”
  • Climate change: “The window is closing fast” to get something done. Since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord (and the U.S. can’t get back into the Paris agreement until we have a new President), the best opportunity to get something done would be through an infrastructure bill that includes provisions for energy alternatives. This is an area where Trump might agree.
  • Guns: In addition to background checks, Swalwell supports banning or buying back all assault weapons. He told a personal story from when he was a prosecutor about a victim of an assault weapon who was shot in the leg, but still died because the bullet was fired at such a high velocity.
  • Yemen: Swalwell said that he supports House Concurrent Resolution 138, which directs the President to remove United States armed forces from the Republic of Yemen.

Photograph (top) © Rep. Swalwell’s office

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

 

Keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court

We know, you don’t need a singing elf on a unicorn to get you to oppose a Supreme Court nominee with a record against abortion rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, and common sense gun safety – but we’re giving you one anyway!

singing elf on unicorn

Brett Kavanaugh, nominated not long after the Fourth of July (ain’t irony great), has a record that’s all of the above. He is a “textualist,” an “originalist,” like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the Constitution must somehow be interpreted according to its text alone as written and intended by the Founding (white male slave-owning) Fathers. But most troubling of all, Kavanaugh has said that a sitting President should be exempt from criminal investigation and questioning, including questioning by prosecutors and defense counsel. No wonder Trump chose him!

Whether Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court for generations to come (he’s only 53 years old) is up to the Senate, and they need to hear from you: please call Senators Feinstein (202) 224-3841 and Harris (202) 224-3553 and ask them to do everything they can to block this nominee who would gut Roe v. Wade and give someone like Trump even greater executive power.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He would be a threat to our rights, our environment, and our protections against a dangerous administration. I want Senator ____ to speak out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, and to vote against him, and to persuade other Senators to vote against him.

Other things you can do:

  • #SaveSCOTUS Phone Banking. Sign up for an Indivisible National virtual phone bank to help flip crucial Senate seats in November. Training provided. All info & sign up for July 15 & 16 banks here.
  • Text banking with Resistance Labs: this is a fantastic resource – if the text banking to fight the Kavanaugh nomination has not yet gone live, sign up to be alerted when it’s ready to go!

 

Bay Area Marches for Our Lives

Indivisible East Bay members attended March for Our Lives events in several locations in the East Bay and beyond on March 24; here are some of their impressions.

Richmond

Tom Janci: We attended the March For Our Lives event in Richmond. Organizers estimate almost 1,000 people turned out to show support for the young people who organized such an incredible event. It was incredibly moving to hear their stories. It was also a good reminder that our children are not just our future – they are our NOW. City and county elected officials as well as State Senator Nancy Skinner and Representative Mark DeSaulnier attended the event.

March for our Lives, Richmond, photo by Alice Towey
March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Alice Towey

George McRae: I went to the March for Our Lives in Richmond. The March started at the intersection of Nevin and Harbour Way, opposite Kaiser Hospital, which treats its share of gunshot victims, and ended at City Hall Plaza, where government officials and the community work to mitigate gun violence. Along the route, one could look up at the lamp and power poles and see the “shot spotter” equipment … they’re everywhere in Richmond.  I listened to the speakers, those whose lives were directly impacted and those who have been elected to legislate gun violence out of existence. I can say with complete certainty whose reflections impacted me most. The names of Richmond victims were read in between the speakers. The list went on … and on …  I left carrying the memory of people I have lost to gun violence. None of us are immune. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as an American,  YOU have a 99.85% chance of knowing someone victimized by gun violence in your lifetime.  These children know they are in the gun sights, and it’s up to all of us to make the elected people do OUR bidding, not the NRA’s. Enough.

March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Heidi Rand
March for Our Lives, Richmond, photo by Heidi Rand
Catherine de Neergaard: It was a really sweet march and rally on 3/24 in Richmond, California to stop gun violence. At about 3000 people, it was a more accessible, intimate, and quieter event than the much larger rallies in SF and Oakland. I liked that. There was space to be able to hear and chat with old buddies, neighbors and new people too. About 25 people from Indivisible East Bay met at the beginning of the March. It was wonderful seeing the children and young people some of whom made speeches or read poems.
Sixteen year old Shelton McAdoo opened the rally with a moving speech. Interspersed with the speeches, names of those slain in gun violence were read. Richmond Mayor Tom Butt and Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia both made short, passionate speeches supporting the young people to lead this country to end gun violence. Towards the end, there was an open mike. I made a brief speech about the many new laws we need to control guns and stop gun violence, including the need to permit and fund the national health agency, the CDC, to do research on the health effects of gun violence, and the need for a national database of guns, gun owners, and gun sales. Indivisible East Bay, Rich City RIDES, and Citizens Power Network were doing voter registration. IEB and League of Women Voters had petitions to sign. Thank you organizers! Let us not stop until guns are controlled.

 

Oakland

Ward Kanowsky: On March 24, 2018, over 840 cities around the world participated in the March For Our Lives. With gun violence impacting the Oakland community, it was important for the city to be a host of one of these events. I was one of several members of IEB who staffed a booth during the rally, which included student speakers from local high schools, poetry readings, youth from the Martin Luther King Freedom Center and Bay Area Students for Gun Violence Prevention, and alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, among many others. Following the two-hour rally, there was a brief but rousing march to Lake Merritt, led by four of the student organizers of the event.

You can continue to support the inspiring work of our young people by signing the March For Our Lives petition, which calls for Congress to pass legislation that will protect and save our children from gun violence.

Ann Daniels: I was helping to staff the IEB table in back of the crowd, so I didn’t hear the speakers very well, but I got to interact with a steady stream of people of all ages and races. Some were long-time activists but many were new to activism,or hadn’t been active politically for several years – this cause, this moment, was the “last straw,” as one woman told me. They wanted information about how to be active on more than this one issue, which was wonderful. I also loved seeing how many people felt positive, full of admiration for the young people from Parkland and all over the country who have stood up and become leaders.

March for Our Lives, Oakland, photo by Deirdre Spencer
March for Our Lives, Oakland, photo by Deirdre Spencer

San Francisco

Helen Clifton, Poinsett Indivisible: The San Francisco March for Our Lives was inspiring, rousing, energizing. People of all ages attended, listening to and cheering on this youth movement. Unlike the Washington, D.C. March, there were adult speakers as well as MANY amazing articulate youngsters from around the Bay Area: we heard from Senator Dianne Feinstein, Jennifer Seibel Newsom, London Breed, current SF Mayor Farrell, Grace Slick, and Pastor Michael McBride and Leo Mercer, who work with communities and organizations in Oakland. There was also a woman who survived Columbine, two alumni from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the father of a student who was killed at the UC Santa Barbara massacre, who works with Everytown for Gun Safety. Dr. Gregory Victorino, M.D., chief of the Trauma Center at San Francisco General Hospital, spoke about the huge gun violence issue in American public health. A leading trauma surgeon, Victorino was involved in treating victims at the Columbine and Aurora Theatre shootings.  

Many speakers addressed the prevalence of gun violence generally in America, as only 4% of gun deaths are from mass shootings. They also pointed to the horror of so many deaths caused by police shooting Black people, most recently Stephon Clark in Sacramento, unarmed, on an iPhone, in his grandmother’s backyard, leaving two little boys without their loving father. They also spoke of women being killed by domestic partners, and Jennifer Seibel Newsom brought up Toxic Masculinity! One teenage girl, a senior in high school, talked about PTSD from when she was 13, walking fourth-grade sisters home from school, and being surrounded by gunfire in their neighborhood, only steps from home, dropping to the ground until bullets stopped. She has grown up with the constant fear of gun violence in the streets. 

Everyone around me was very moved, stood and listened throughout the unusually long rally, then marched forever down Market Street to the Ferry Building. 

March for Our Lives, San Francisco, photo by Helen Clifton
March for Our Lives, San Francisco, photo by Helen Clifton

Did you march? There’s more you can do! Help keep the momentum these young people have built going — contact your Members of Congress to ask them to hold a Town Hall for Our Lives in solidarity with those across the country on Saturday April 7.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661

A Sensitive Subject: Gun Rights from One Perspective

Editor’s note: After the March 24, 2018 March for Our Lives, a member of IEB leadership interviewed an IEB member who is a gun owner and who attended one of the East Bay Marches. What follows is an edited selection of their wide-ranging conversation on guns, gun control legislation, gun ownership, and related subjects. The IEB member has chosen to remain anonymous.

IEB: Why did you want to go to the March for Our Lives? And why did you bring your young son?

Answer: I went to the march (1) to support my fellow IEB members (2) to show young folks that they can lead adults on this issue (3) it was easier just to bring my son due to childcare issues and (4) it’s good for him to see the excitement of older kids on an important issue.

IEB: That doesn’t sound like you felt a particular connection with the subject of the march.

Answer: Not a big connection. I’ve saved my excitement on other issues that Indivisible supports. But being present and showing support was important.

IEB: You’re a gun owner and you’ve told me you support some gun control legislation – do you feel like other gun control supporters do, or could, see you as an ally? Do you think the leaders of the anti-gun violence movement are taking good tactical positions?

Answer: I’m an ally depending on how far they want to go. For example, CA just made it illegal to buy ammunition in the mail. That made me angry. Limiting magazines to 10 rounds is fine. An assault weapons ban is fine. Making it difficult and expensive for lawful gun owners to buy ammo for their legally obtained firearms is not good.

IEB: Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has called for repealing the Second Amendment. What do you think?

Answer: A Constitutional amendment needs two-thirds of both Houses of Congress calling for it, then convening a Constitutional Convention where three-quarters of state legislatures must agree. That’s not going to happen.

IEB: Will you teach your son about guns when he gets to be old enough?

Answer: Only after he’s 18 and if he asks about it. I will teach him about gun safety in a few months, like knowing what to do when you see one: Back away. Don’t touch. Go get an adult right away-preferably, their parent. I’m already teaching him the basics of marksmanship through archery. It’s mostly the same muscle memory.

IEB: Do you ask his friends’ parents if they have guns in the home before you let him go play there? And if you do, how do you ask?

Answer: I actually have several dinners and outings with them. I check them out. I mention my background with the military and weapons. If they don’t offer up, I take it that they don’t have weapons, especially if they have kids and have opportunities to speak up. I’ve told my nearest neighbors that I have a pistol and it’s locked up. We have a lot of play dates with those boys.

IEB: Wow, that’s a lot of work. Has anyone ever said they don’t want their kids coming over to your place after finding out you have weapons, locked up?

Answer: Nope.

IEB: You used to be in the armed services. What kind of gun(s) did you use then, and what kind do you own now? And what do you use them for?

Answer: Let’s talk about my Sig Sauer P229K .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol. I purchased it in 2007 to get extra practice for the US Coast Guard’s pistol range. I was leading maritime law enforcement specialists who were weapons experts. I had to be good with the Sig Sauer to credibly lead them. I’ve fired that weapon tens of thousands of times since then. I’m proficient. I use it only for marksmanship practice. The .40 caliber is the diameter of the bullet. It’s .40” wide. It’s an English measurement as compared to a 9 mm round that is more common. That’s 9 mm in diameter. A gun is a machine. No use keeping it unless you have all the parts to make it function properly. And the training—but that can be subjective. I have my training from the military and that’s my foundation that hasn’t changed that much.

IEB: What kinds of semiautomatic weapons can be converted to fully automatic, and what can’t? Or put another way: why can some weapons be converted and others not, or can any semiautomatic weapon be converted to fully automatic given the right equipment?

Answer: I believe it’s the AR-15 type you can easily convert to auto. Go to the internet and google. Anyone can do it. I could if I wanted to. You can ban things but you can’t ban knowledge.

IEB: You can certainly convert those. I believe you can convert others too. One problem, I know, is that if you ban bump stocks, someone will create a different device … something else you can’t ban is ingenuity.

Answer: You know what the rate of fire could be for full auto? In the hundreds of rounds per minute. Magazine size will take care of that. Keep with 10 round magazines. … magazine change has to happen. So 10 round magazine will take care of that.

IEB: There’s no way that a would-be mass shooter can carry it out with that change?

Answer: No, it would be a lot of magazines. It takes a microsecond to go through a 10 round magazine. Then it takes a second to reload. A microsecond later you have to reload another 10 round magazine which takes another second.

IEB: What do you think of the idea of arming teachers?

Answer: No. It’s a dog whistle for the extremists. Without enough training (100 hours a year at least) anyone with a weapon is a danger to themselves and others. I won’t even go into the dynamics of teachers having guns while other things are going on in a classroom. And they don’t get paid enough—we need to pay our teachers more. Then we can ask them to do more—but not guns.

 

March For Our Lives & Other Events Against Gun Violence

There are numerous events against gun violence on different dates in different locations. We will add to and edit this list as we learn of new events and/or updates.

March 14: School Walkouts:

Schools and students nationwide will participate in a 17-minute walkout on March 14 at 10 AM (local time), to honor the 17 people killed on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and to protest gun violence. KRON-4 News has put together this comprehensive list of all the participating schools in the entire Bay Area. Some school districts, including Oakland, Alameda, and Piedmont, have issued district-wide policies stating that they will be working with students on various events and activities for that day. Note: IEB is not encouraging students to do anything that could endanger their academic careers, and we don’t know whether specific schools will mark students absent, etc., or whether parental notification will affect the school’s handling of individual cases.

March 24: March For Our Lives

Student organizers and Everytown for Gun Safety are organizing March for Our Lives events on March 24 in locations around the country and around the world, aided by celebrity support and donations. This is the weekend event that families can go to together and kids and teens can attend without missing school. Bay Area locations include:

  • Oakland: 10 AM-1 PM, Frank Ogawa Plaza. Register here. The March is looking for volunteers; email OaklandMarch@gmail.com.
  • Richmond: 11 AM, Downtown Richmond, 1300 Nevin Ave
  • San Leandro: 9-11:30 AM. Gather at Washington Elementary, San Leandro at 9 AM to make signs; march begins at 9:45 AM; rally begins at 10:15 AM with speakers and activities (postcard making, letter writing, and refreshments). This event is suitable for families with young children.
  • Walnut Creek: 11 AM, location downtown Walnut Creek TBD
  • San Francisco: 1 PM, Civic Center Plaza. Interested in volunteering? Reach out here.
  • Search for an event near you here.

April 20: The Anniversary of Columbine

The two students who massacred their fellow students and several teachers at their high school in Columbine, Colorado on April 20, 1999 used explosives and other weapons of mass destruction as well as guns, but Columbine is generally recognized as the mass school shooting that began the modern plague that our nation has suffered from unremittingly in the nearly two decades since. In those days before live internet news, people watched and listened in horror as radio and TV reported what was previously unimaginable. Now, a student who lives near Sandy Hook, site of another previously unimaginable school shooting, has originated a call to mark the date: Friday, April 20 will see school walkouts throughout the country. We’ll list Bay Area events as we learn of them.

Graphic: #MarchForOurLives

Calling BS On Thoughts and Prayers

There aren’t words for what happened in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day. The trauma inflicted on the students and their families is so unimaginably vast that it may alter the course of American history.

Parkland’s students are forging their heartbreak and anger into action. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, stood in front of the world’s news cameras and spoke her truth to the nominal leader of the free world just days after February 14:

If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy, and how it should never have happened, and maintain telling us how nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association. But hey, you want to know something? It doesn’t matter, because I already know: $30 million. … To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you!

Gonzalez and her classmates are calling BS on the fiction that tighter regulation doesn’t save lives. It does. Fewer guns means fewer deaths, every time.

They demand that we take action, and we owe it to them and to ourselves to do so. Here’s where you come in. You can:

Support legislation requiring reasonable regulation of firearms:

Let Your MoC Know How You Feel About Their Track Record:

 

  • Outside the East Bay:
    • Explore this NPR chart to see how your Members of Congress have voted on gun bills.
    • Find out whether your representatives are funded by the NRA.
    • If your MoCs support gun safety, thank them! You can be sure the NRA is getting their members to give them grief, and they need to hear from you.
    • If your MoCs oppose reasonable regulation of firearms or are being bought by the NRA, tell them they’re not representing your wishes; tell them you won’t vote for them and will work against them. This fundraising piece from Gabby Giffords has graphics you can print and make into a postcard or tape to a piece of paper. You can use Giffords’ tweets for inspiration for your message too.

Hit the Streets and Support the Students:

Support and Donate to a Gun Safety Organization:

 

CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Photograph of Emma Gonzalez copyright CNN

Gun Bills in the Spotlight

After the deadly events that played out in Las Vegas, two controversial pro-gun bills moving through the House this fall are in the spotlight.

The first is the SHARE Act (Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act). Backed by the NRA, the 144 page bill covers a lot of ground.

Aiming to open current restrictions on hunting/shooting on public lands, the bill would reverse the ban on lead tackle and ammunition, allow bird shooting over unharvested crops, and end endangered species protection for Great Lake grey wolves and purchase of new bird habitats. Controversial components of the bill also involve bans on silencers and armor-piercing bullets.

A silencer muffles the noise of a gun once it’s shot. Currently, to obtain one you have to submit fingerprints, a photo and submit to a waiting period of 9 months or more. This waiting period is similar to the one required when you buy a machine guns or explosives. Plus, law enforcement keeps track of the purchase. And, there’s a $200 transfer tax.  The Hearing Protection Act would abolish all these restrictions.

Those who support silencers say they protect hunter’s hearing from damage by muffling gunfire – not actually silencing it.

“It isn’t a silencer because it still makes sound, but what it does is cuts the percentage of the noise down to make shooting sports a little nicer for people’s hearing,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale (Butte County).

Those against it say it makes it harder for law enforcement and bystanders to hear and avoid active gunfire.

“What it does is it disperses the sound, so you can’t identify where the sound is coming from,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) who is also a hunter. “It puts both law enforcement and the public at risk.”

Another sticky issue: the bill proposes legalizing the sale of armor-piercing bullets if the manufacturer labels the ammunition as intended for “sporting purposes.”

Although Democrats have reported they expected a vote on the legislation this week,  Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that the bill is not scheduled and he does not know when it’s going to be scheduled. The bill was previously delayed this summer when a shooter open fired on a congressional baseball game injuring House Majority Whip Steve Scalia.

The other pro-gun measure moving through the House is called the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow concealed carry permit holders to take their weapons across state borders, as long as it is allowed in the state they live in. The NRA says that the act would “ensure that law-abiding citizens do not forfeit their ability to protect themselves as they travel from state to state.”

Counterarguments are that “you’d have a situation where somebody could come from Arizona, where there is no permit required at all to carry a gun, and that person’s Arizona residency would override California law and allow anybody with an Arizona driver’s license or resident card to carry a loaded gun in the state,” Peter Ambler, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. This is clearly a concern to those of us in California, which has much stricter gun laws than our neighbors.

What can we do? What can our members of Congress do?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned the SHARE Act and Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act after welcoming Rep. Scalise back to Congress.

She believes Republicans have enough votes to pass both bills, but Democrats can likely block them with a filibuster.

Our representatives in the East Bay have some of the lowest ratings from the NRA; you can thank them for their continued action to fight for our safety and for common sense. In particular, Senators Feinstein and Harris have just announced a bill that would close the loophole allowing modification of automatic weapons. And on October 4, the New York Times reported that Republican leaders may consider banning the kind of device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to turn his rifles into weapons of mass destruction. Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris: “Thank you for your efforts at gun control. Please vote NO on the SHARE Act, and urge your colleagues to enact restrictions on devices that turn guns into automatic weapons. It isn’t too soon. We don’t need any more mass shootings!” 

Although these bills are seemingly tabled for the present moment, it does not mean the NRA and pro-gun law lobby is backing down.  They’ve been quoted as saying that right-to-carry remains a legislative priority as well as reforming law relating to suppressors.    

And it’s their pattern to go quiet after a violent event.

“Their plan is to avoid the media until the story passes and then figure out someone else to blame,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Here’s a great list of 7 things from Everytown to fight the SHARE Act & Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act to help pass common-sense gun laws.