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Opinion: The same unity and determination seen for COVID-19 should be applied to the epidemic of gun violence
San Diego Union-Tribune - 4/7/2021
Elliott is the San Diego City Attorney and the California Lawyers Association's Public Lawyer of the Year. She lives in San Diego.
We are starting to see the benefits of a national strategy to defeat COVID-19, and its success stems from the participation of Americans at every level, from health officials to the White House to the citizens who roll up their sleeves to receive vaccinations.
We need to apply that same unity and determination to another threat to every American â€” the epidemic of gun violence. As with the COVID-19 pandemic, this epidemic will not disappear with thoughts and prayers.
The decline in mass shootings during most of 2020 was undoubtedly due to the lack of mass gatherings that year, but they've returned with a vengeance now that our lives are returning to a post-pandemic normal. The reopening of schools across our country, following a surge in gun sales during the pandemic, is a stark reminder that action is needed now.
The gun lobby's influence in Washington, D.C., may be at its lowest level in years following the November elections. And, according to a poll conducted by USA Today-Ipsos on March 23 and 24, nearly two-thirds of Americans support tougher gun laws. Now is the time to demand action and for our leaders to come together in support and furtherance of comprehensive gun violence prevention solutions.
As a member of the national organization Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, I have called on Congress and the Biden administration to work together to:
Ban military-style assault weapons, the weapon of choice for mass killers
Expand background checks to include all gun purchases and close loopholes that allow individuals to bypass background checks
Take action to prevent the proliferation of untraceable "ghost guns"
Close the so-called "boyfriend loophole" that treats domestic abusers differently based on whether they are married to or only dating their victims
Ensure gun violence survivors can access Victims of Crime Act assistance funds, which too often go unused
Prioritize funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to complete a comprehensive, longitudinal study of the gun violence epidemic
As with the fight against COVID-19, prevention is the smartest and most effective strategy. This has been my guiding principle as San Diego city attorney, and why I continue to urge the passage of the national Extreme Risk Order Protection Act to ensure every state has the tools we use in San Diego to prevent tragedies from occurring.
My office has used Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) to intervene in more than 500 crisis situations when individuals posed a threat of harm to themselves or others. Some cases involved schools, workplaces, hospitals and other public places. Perpetrators of mass shootings often give a clear warning before they act, and GVROs allow a swift and effective response before unspeakable violence can occur.
The landscape of gun violence is constantly evolving, which is why I also urge the passage of bills in the California Legislature that would keep pace with changes in technology:
San Diego Assemblymember Chris Ward's Assembly Bill 311, which would amend the California Penal Code to prohibit vendors at gun shows from possessing, displaying, offering to sell, selling or transferring any firearm precursor parts, closing a loophole to prohibit the unregulated proliferation of "ghost guns"
Laguna Beach Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris' Assembly Bill 1057, which would ensure dangerous ghost guns and gun parts can be seized through a GVRO
Baldwin Park state Sen. Susan Rubio's Senate Bill 538, which would allow victims and witnesses to appear remotely at hearings for GVROs and domestic violence restraining orders, protecting them from further physical or emotional abuse
As we reopen our schools, we must never forget that our responsibility to keep our children safe extends beyond the provision of masks, sanitizers and physically distanced seating arrangements. Yet despite the massacres of our children at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, our country has inexplicably refused to act. This legacy of failure is unmistakably our own.
We must do better, and we've shown that we can. The rapid development and distribution of COVD-19 vaccines is an inspiring example of what can be accomplished in crisis, when lives are on the line and time is of the essence. Join me in demanding that leaders in government use the same level of urgency, determination, expertise and grit to finally end America's gun violence epidemic.
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This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.
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