Throughout this past year, our campus and community have experienced a host of tragedies unlike anything ever seen in our immediate past. As part of the Nexus editorial staff, it has been my job to contribute to op-eds in the wake of each of these events, including in the days following February’s sexual assault and the riots that broke out during Deltopia. None of those were easy to write. But in the wake of last Friday’s tragic events, I was especially hesitant to write anything. Friends took to social media to express concerns that this should be a time of mourning, not a time during which political agendas should be furthered, or even discussed, a sentiment that I agreed with whole-heartedly. I still believe that first and foremost, we should be doing everything in our power to work together to heal and to honor those six victims, rather than dwelling on the “hows” and “whys.”
However, Richard Martinez’s impassioned speech at yesterday’s beautiful memorial service made it clear to all in attendance that one of the best ways to honor the memory of those we’ve lost is by taking steps to make sure that this never happens again. He emphasized that although many of us have different beliefs about what these steps should be, the cause that he has chosen to back personally is one that calls for stricter gun control regulations. He asked that we take to Twitter — or even to good old snail mail — to implore our government officials to introduce new legislation. By the time I got around to writing this, a few hours after the service had ended, the hashtag, “#notonemore” was being tweeted at an average rate of 2,500 times an hour.
Growing up in a staunchly anti-gun household, where no one hunts, and the only security my house has is an old-school wooden Louisville Slugger that my dad keeps under his bed, I’ve never understood the need for accessibility to semi-automatic weapons. Therefore, I realize that I’m jumping onboard the #notonemore train much more quickly and easily than some others in I.V. I also realize that this is a very nuanced case, one in which we could just as easily discuss the stigmatism of mental illness or the dangers of male privilege and misogyny. And I said before, I’m hesitant to discuss these things while I.V. is still in mourning — I’d never want to take away anything from the celebration of those six lives. But in order to do a service to Richard Martinez, and to his son’s memory, I would like to briefly look at the logistics of gun control reform.
In 2011, the rate of firearm-related homicides in the U.S. was 3.6 per 100,000 people. That number seems small, until you compare it with a country where semi-automatic firearms are banned; for example, in 2010, the rate of firearm-related homicides in the United Kingdom was .04 per 100,000 people. That’s about one percent of the U.S.’s rate. Furthermore, while overall violence in the U.S. has been steadily decreasing for the past 20 years, 2012 — the year that the Sandy Hook and Aurora movie theater shootings took place — saw the highest number of firearm-related homicides in recent U.S. history.
However, a complete ban on firearms does not seem to be feasible in the United States, or at least not any time in the near future; gun culture just seems to be too deeply, disgustingly engrained in the American fabric. However, Renee Binder, a professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco, recently proposed what she calls a “Gun Violence Restraining Order,” which would allow a judge to temporarily stop the purchase of a firearm if an individual’s family or acquaintances expressed concern. A similar law is in place in Canada, where family members or even neighbors can be interviewed to determine whether or not an individual should receive a gun license (and for the record, their rate in 2009 was .5 per 100,000 people, still vastly lower than the U.S.’s). And yesterday, California Assemblymembers Das Williams and Nancy Skinner have pledged to introduce a bill that will incorporate this measure.
Of course, this solution quickly crumbles under the question, what if the gun was bought in private? However, I believe that it’s a step in the right direction. We need to recognize that even though California has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, that’s still not saying much. Furthermore, I think that we can all agree that no one individual should ever, ever, for any circumstances, have access to over 400 rounds of ammunition.
So I encourage you all to browse and share the #notonemore tag, not purely to further a political agenda, but rather to pay tribute to Mr. Martinez’s wishes and more importantly, to pay tribute to the memory of his son, Christopher, and to the memory of the five other Gauchos that we lost last weekend.
Allyson Campion thinks any progress is good progress.