People of color continue to bear the brunt of gun violence

Gun violence continues to destroy lives across our nation. The deaths continue to mount.  Too many are people of color, including children, at the hands of law enforcement. This past Thursday night we saw another tragic mass shooting in Indianapolis, where half of those lost were from the Sikh community. This year, we have had more than one mass shooting a day. Over half of the 2000 women murdered annually by their intimate partners are killed with a gun. Gun violence is ubiquitous, aided and abetted by hatred and discrimination, including racism, sexism and religious hostility. 

The Indianapolis assault, where four members of the Sikh community were among the victims, flashes onto the news in the wake of a series of assaults and murders fed by discrimination based on ethnicity, skin color and gender. Thirty percent of the mass shootings in the world occur in the U.S. Thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo and twenty-year-old Daunte Wright were the most recent homicide victims by law enforcement. The whole world was moved by the senseless, evil murder of George Floyd by a police officer last year and yet here we are, over and over again. 

As a country, we are unwilling to act even though in 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than any other year in at least two decades. An additional 24,000 people died by suicide with a gun. One third of the gun suicides in the world occur in America. We are a nation in pain, and an armed nation with too much hostility and too many guns.  Even the assault weapons ban in California was allowed to expire. The United States sees 100 times more firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people than Germany.

The rest of the world was shocked and disappointed that we did not act when, after the 2012 Sandy Hook murders of 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old, we did next to nothing, except grieve. Parkland students walked out of school to fight for gun control when 17 of their classmates were murdered and 17 more injured in 2018. And still, nothing. But I know we don’t need a recent history lesson to know that the level of deaths by guns in this country has long been another obscene stain on our nation.

When I was in the Assembly, I supported the nation’s first law that banned the sale of military-style assault weapons in California. I received death threats, but stood strong. The bill was signed after the murder of five children and wounding of 32 others in a Stockton schoolyard because at that time, Republicans and Democrats could work together to protect our children. Until we come together to address the endless stream of senseless gun deaths that destroy families, communities and our sense of safety, we will not be such a Golden State.

When I was CA Superintendent of Public Instruction, I worked with Attorneys General of both parties to develop school safety standards for California, and, subsequently, then Secretary of Education Reilly told me they were the best in the nation after he convened a working committee to make recommendations about school safety following the Columbine tragedy. He said the national plan borrowed most heavily from California. But what a tragedy it is in our nation that our school children need to be protected from community members. Why are we dealing with the result instead of the reason?

As California Democratic Party Chair I will take the same uncompromising stance to address gun violence, while showing an ability to listen and work well with others to find real solutions that solve this most pressing crisis. No, the Chair does not make policy, but as an experienced legislator and executive in the state government, I know what moves legislators to act. And I know that while California has some of the strongest laws in the nation, it is not enough. We are not an island, and this violence across our country and at home here in California breaks too many of our hearts and increases our fears. 

No American should be afraid to walk our streets or go to school or their workplace. We have a long way to go to improve gun safety in California, and I commit to helping us get there. Time to wake up and smell the gunpowder.