I grabbed my son by the arm and rushed to take shelter behind a pillar. The gunshots rang out and echoed in the walkway as I held my son to my chest. My heart was pounding and I was ready to run. I just knew that I’d witnessed someone being killed.
I can so vividly remember the words of my dear friend after she experienced a shooting in the parking lot of the Sand City Target a few years ago. She was not physically harmed, but most certainly traumatized. Her son was too young to remember what happened, but will forever remember the fear and confusion he felt that day. I wasn’t even there, but I still think about that conversation every time I see that red bullseye. Community violence, even when it does not have a direct impact on a person, has lifelong negative impacts on learning, health, and behavior, interfering with the ability of kids to succeed in school and in life.
As the nation mobilizes around the #NeverAgain movement, my thoughts keep returning to the massive public health impacts that gun violence has on our country and our own community every single day. Monterey County has consistently ranked among the highest rate of homicide of young people in California, with as many as 20 youth aged 10-24 murdered every year, the majority killed by guns. Since its opening, Natividad’s trauma center annually provides care for over 100 victims of life-threatening gunshot wounds. Gun violence, including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings, results in over 30,000 deaths and 80,000 non-fatal injuries annually in the United States. Senseless and tragic mass shootings attract media attention because they highlight the danger of and clearly demonstrate that gun-related violence can occur any place at any time.
I am raising my voice to say that this is unacceptable and demands immediate attention and action. I will be asking my colleagues on the MPUSD School Board to adopt a resolution taking a position in support of stronger federal gun control, eliminating the Dickey Amendment that restricts federally funded research into the causes and consequences of gun violence, and supporting peaceful student-led civic action. I invite you to show your support by writing a letter to your local representatives on the School Board, City Council, and Board of Supervisors urging adoption of their own similar resolution.
The cost of gun violence, as measured by lives lost and physical and emotional scars, is simply too high to continue to ignore. It’s time to stop offering the victims and families torn apart by this senselessness our thoughts and prayers and start taking immediate action.
Wendy Root Askew
Wendy Root Askew is the Area 1 Trustee on the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District