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Letter from the President: November 2018

I look out my office window at a patch of green park, where a flag hangs mournfully at half-mast.  I think it’s for Thousand Oaks. Or Pittsburgh. Or maybe the one before that.

How sad that we are becoming inured to massacres.

But we became inured years ago. The steady drumbeat of gun violence has been with us for years. More than 35,000 people killed each year. Close to 95,000 wounded, but survive. That’s more than 21,000 suicides by gun each year; more than 12,000 homicides by gun each year. The massacres add a sad exclamation point to what has long been a steady toll of death in homes and neighborhoods.

And the toll is massive. The victims gone. The families scarred. The communities battered.

Last month, as I was getting ready for Halloween, I spoke with a mother who lives in Los Angeles about her children’s plans. “Are your kids going Trick or Treating?” “Oh no,” she said.  “We put pillows and blankets on the floor and lie down.” I asked why. So that they would be below the level where stray gunshots might hit them, she explained.

Putting blankets on the floor to dodge gunfire shouldn’t be usual. Carrying a gun just to feel safe in a community shouldn’t be usual. Hiring guards for schools and churches and synagogues shouldn’t be usual. Practicing hiding in a supply closet as preschool teachers do with the four-year-olds in their care shouldn’t be usual. But these are all things that are happening, increasingly. And we are becoming accustomed to what should be rare.

We all have a right to be safe in our communities. To worship freely and without fear. To pursue happiness and to live without fear.

The causes behind each of these shootings may differ––domestic violence or mental illness or hate or something else. But what they have in common is a weapon that makes it so much easier and quicker to hurt and kill.

What can we do about firearm violence? We are proud to be members of two funding coalitions, the national Fund for a Safer Future and California’s Hope and Heal Fund. Together, the two funds provide support to organizations that conduct community- and state-based organizing for change, advocacy, policy-relevant research and analysis, and communications. The funds and the organizations they support show that there is much that can be done.

Here is an op-ed by Nina Vinik of the Joyce Foundation, one of the co-founders of the Fund for a Safer Future, published after Parkland, which describes steps for policymakers and all of us.

California is the first state to provide public funding for a firearm violence prevention research center. We are proud to support the efforts of the research team that works on these issues. In a Sacramento Bee op-ed, Dr. Garen Wintemute, the Center’s director, describes the policy actions that can be taken.

There are so many things that we can do. What we cannot do is become dulled to the toll imposed on all of us by gun violence.