By Wendy Wheatcroft / San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention
Last Monday I attended the beautiful community vigil at Congregation Beth Israel along with several of my co-volunteers in San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP). The hateful slaughter of 11 Jews at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh a couple of days earlier was absolutely horrific, and we’re dedicated to eliminating this scourge from American life. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than having to attend vigils for murdered Americans, but it’s part of what we do.
You know what hurts too? Sitting at a vigil for innocent people slain by hate-filled gun violence and seeing four local leaders being given a role of prominence when their roles in combating gun violence are anything but prominent.
All four of them should know better
I was surprised to see our mayor, our police chief, our district attorney and our sheriff in positions of prominence at the vigil. I was shocked at the first two, standing at a microphone and telling more than 2,000 mostly Jewish people that they were doing everything in their power to ensure this kind of hate crime would never darken their doorstep here in San Diego. Are they really doing that?
Our mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has steadfastly avoided any interaction with SD4GVP despite our repeated invitations and requests to meet with him and his staff. If he were truly serious about the price San Diego’s communities of color pay for daily violence with firearms, he would follow the example of the City Attorney and several members of the City Council. They and other local representatives have championed gun violence prevention at local, state and federal levels, but our mayor seems to be dedicated to leading from behind. Now I understand the expression “A fish rots from the head.”
Our police chief, David Nisleit, started out supporting the Community Assistance Support Team (CAST) walks, a vital, grass-roots effort by community leaders to build relationships with police officers and do something about gun violence in their neighborhoods. For that matter, the mayor also expressed support for CAST in a letter before appointing the police chief. Unfortunately, support seems to wane when CAST leaders talked about accountability and the use of excessive force by police officers. Now it appears that the mayor’s office and the SDPD have ripped off the CAST concept and are attempting to pass a new one as their own great idea. Recently, CAST has no longer been receiving the valuable information it had previously received to help reduce gang-related violence to just a single death in San Diego last year. Will the numbers come in that low this year?
Our district attorney, Summer Stephan, sounded the dog whistle of a George Soros-bashing website, threattosandiego.com, in her election campaign. Oddly, the website has not been accessible for the past week or so. Coincidence? How does someone who created an anti-Semitic website stand on the stage in a Jewish temple? This, in addition to her office’s handling of the violent death of Earl McNeil, make me wonder about the fitness of her office to protect San Diegans.
Our sheriff, Bill Gore, appears to have acquiesced to the continuing pressure from so-called guns rights activists by greatly easing restrictions on obtaining CCW permits in San Diego County, particularly in the months and weeks leading up to his recent reelection. According to the gun rights group’s Facebook page, permits in the county have jumped from 1,100 in September 2016 to 1,850 in October 2017. This page goes on to highlight their campaign to influence the sheriff’s office into granting more permits so that more San Diegans can carry concealed weapons in public. This contradicts the Sheriff’s statement of attending the vigil that he is doing everything he can to combat gun violence.
Are you sick of hearing “It’s too soon to talk about gun violence”?
The Tree of Life massacre was fueled by hatred and armed by the National Rifle Association. In 24 hours, the ADL organized a beautiful memorial for those 11 victims of gun violence. In those same 24 hours, 96 more people died of gun violence somewhere in America. As long as politicians say that it is “too soon” to talk about gun violence, this daily NRA-sponsored massacre of Americans will continue. Does that make those 96 people less important? If to save one life is to save all of humanity, shouldn’t we try to save them ALL?
That is why the political posturing of our mayor, police chief, district attorney and sheriff at the vigil was so disappointing. One of them even invoked “thoughts and prayers,” which nobody but the president and people in the pocket of the gun lobby even say anymore. None of them had the integrity to talk about the elephant in the room and utter the word “gun.” As usual, it was “too soon to talk about that.” You know, about the guns that killed eleven people and injured four more.
Wendy Wheatcroft is a mom, educator, and community advocate working to end gun violence in all of its forms to keep children and their families safe.