In the face of relentless acts of gun violence across our country, in California and in our region, we cannot keep silent and not “say something” when it’s so plain and painful to see. 45,000 people a year in the US lose their lives to gun violence, including homicides, suicides, and accidents. That’s 123 yesterday, 123 today, and 123 tomorrow. Among the many victims, even more painful are the specific targets of violence painfully highlighted in the last few weeks: Black neighbors just grocery shopping, kids in school, worshippers at church, and seared in our memories are past shootings at LGBTQ venues, the Route 91 Harvest Festival with 500 Ventura County residents in attendance, and our own horrible tragedy at the Borderline Bar & Grill. Sadly, our own neighbors know this pain, and the memories are sparked again and again with each repeat tragedy.
We know that women face the highest risk of homicide by gun at home – nearly 85% of homicides in the home are against women who were living with a gun owner. The United States has the highest rate of gun homicides of any wealthy country by a far margin, nearly twice that of our closest rival in this grim contest: Greenland; four times more than Israel and multiple more times than every other country with a similar GDP. Yes, this is a mental health problem, and it’s a gun problem and a cultural problem in our country. Even six years ago, in 2016, the American Medical Association declared gun violence a public health crisis. It sadly is just that – a crisis.
At Interface you’ve heard us say, “if you see something, say something.” It’s human nature to want to look away in the face of hard things like community violence, domestic violence or child abuse. I too feel that hopelessness and agony every time there is another mass shooting. But here at Interface, we do our best to practice what we preach. We’re not perfect, but we do our best to hold ourselves to this same standard as we speak out in the community. So today, we won’t just hang our heads, but we will stand alongside victims of gun violence, to grieve with them and to pledge to do all we can here locally to support victims and prevent future violence. We speak up on behalf of their protection, we acknowledge that our first responders are traumatized too, and we seek after any and all prevention approaches, fully knowing that gun violence shatters lives forever.
I think many of us just feel powerless in the face of such an unrelenting loss of our neighbors to this horror, but we must continue to voice our support for victims and their families and to be a local and public voice standing against gun violence on our streets, in our schools, in our churches, in our public gathering places, and in our homes. It’s easy to want to give in to the pessimism and the relentlessness of this violence in our country. But at Interface, we don’t react that way to child abuse or human trafficking or violence against women – we step up and do what’s right and meaningful, and we are succeeding. With our partners, we are preventing child abuse, we are preventing violence against women, we are preventing human trafficking; so let’s be bold and challenge ourselves to do our part to come together in the protection of future victims of gun violence here at home. I urge you to join with the 200 staff at Interface, our hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of supporters in this most urgent challenge. We see this tragic problem, and we stand up to challenge it.
If you or a loved one needs support, we are here to help you find the help you need. If you are struggling with the recent shooting events and need to speak with someone now please reach out to the National Disaster Distress Hotline at 1-800-985-5990 or dial 211 to reach us for other resources. You can also text your zip code to 898211, or search for support at 211ventura.org/trauma-from-crisis-resources/.