By Jonathan Goetz
Photo: Cheri Robertson and Vicki Shepperd Chin
February 20, 2018 (El Cajon) - Gun violence was at issue on Monday, President's Day, to protesters outside of Congressman Duncan D. Hunter Jr.'s office in El Cajon. Approximately 25 people showed up to hold signs and an American flag to protest Hunter's acceptance of National Rifle Association (NRA) money and his opposition to gun safety legislation.
In 2001, East County was the scene of school shootings at Santana and Granite Hills High schools.
Monday’s protest comes on the heels of yet another mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a gunman armed with a legally purchased assault weapon murdered 17 people, most of them students.
Marie Minnick, who identified herself as a mom, told East County Magazine, “I'm tired of seeing people killed with semi-automatic weapons.”
Vicki Shepperd Chin (photo above right), with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Moms Demand Action and a newly forming group San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention, said. “We're protesting today because Duncan Hunter takes money from the NRA and does not promote gun safety legislation. They're keeping us from getting laws passed that will make it safer for our children and families: sensible gun laws like background checks on all gun purchases, and an assault weapons ban. Duncan Hunter is a cosponsor of a bill called conceal carry reciprocity, which allows people from other states with terrible gun laws to bring their guns here in a State with good gun laws.”
Cheri Robertson, with Indivisible and Together We Will (pictured above left), commented about how much worse the March 2001 school shootings at Santana and Granite Hills High Schools could have been if those shooters had assault weapons, which were illegal to purchase at that time nationwide. Those shooters were armed with a pistol and a shotgun. Two students died and 13 were injured at Santana High. At Granite Hills, just two weeks later, a school resource officer was able to stop the shooter before any one was killed, though several teachers and students were wounded.
Opponents of gun control have argued that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” They point to other root causes such as mental illness. While better diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders would undoubtedly help reduce such tragedies, gun control advocates point to statistics documenting the indisputable evidence that restricting assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines has saved lives—and argue that a federal ban should be reinstated now to protect people from massacres not only at schools, but venues ranging from a concert in Las Vegas to a church in Texas.
Since the federal ban on assault weapons and large ammunition magazines implemented in 1994 was rolled back in 2004, the number of gun massacres has shot up 193 percent and the number of people dying from mass shootings has risen 239 percent, the Washington Post reports.
During the 10-year-ban, mass shootings nationally fell 37 percent and deaths from mass shootings dropped 43 percent.
Jeff Olivero, a local school principal, told East County Magazine that he was attending because of “my deep concern over access to weapons, safeguards for who can have them and who can't, and the magnitude of what's available to the public. There needs to be real legislation to look at the safeguards to protect the public, and, in my line of work, to protect the kids.”
Maggie Murphy, with Change Begins with Me, said, “I am disgusted and horrified and so fed up with all these shootings and it has to stop.” Attending the rally is “my small way to make a difference,” she adds.
Heather Melone, an attorney, said, “My heart's breaking for our kids and this society they're growing up in, the fear they have to face every time they go into school. Our Congress isn't doing anything to enact sensible gun control and as a constituent of Duncan Hunter I want to come out and voice my frustration with his lack of action.”
The protest locally is part of a national movement to pressure lawmakers to restrict access to assault-style weapons and ammunition that enables mass shootings. Students from the Parkland, Florida school say that they will lead a nationwide “March for our Lives” on March 24 with demonstrations targeted in Washington D.C. and cities across the nation. People wishing to participate locally, or in D.C., can sign up at https://www.marchforourlives.com/.
ECMasked Hunter’s office for a response regarding gun violence concerns, but we did not receive a reply.
In his 2008 campaign, Hunter listed his position on guns as follows, according to On the Issues: “I believe the 2nd Amendment is clear and that government should pass no law that restricts the right of any law-abiding citizen to purchase, own and legally use firearms.”