Silicon Valley Community Against Gun Violence held its inaugural meeting on Jan. 17, and people from Atherton, Fremont, Hayward, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Carlos, San Mateo and Sunnyvale attended after the meeting was announced on the MoveOn.org web page, founder Bonnie Bernstein said.
The group is lobbying city officials to support Obama's gun-control push, and it hopes to encourage a variety of local actions, including gun-buyback programs. Former California Assemblywoman Sally Lieder, who attended the meeting, will be holding a community forum on gun control and violence reduction on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 1:30 p.m. at Mountain View City Hall.
Bernstein brought the group's message to the Palo Alto City Council Tuesday, Jan. 22, when the group asked the city to take two actions to support gun control: join the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which now has 800 members nationally; and issue a proclamation in support of Obama's gun-violence policies.
Members of the group are approaching mayors throughout the Peninsula to make similar commitments, she said.
Although the killing of 27 people, including 20 children, in Sandy Hook has become the flashpoint for a call to reshape gun laws and address mental health intervention, Bernstein said communities such as Palo Alto and its schools are vulnerable to gun violence on many levels.
"Not only are thousands killed each year in homicides or suicides, but the impact affects so many others. Each death leaves grieving loved ones in its wake. Those disabled from gun injuries are not counted in statistics, yet their lives are forever changed. Domestic-violence situations are escalated to a threatening level by guns. The fear of safety in parks and neighborhoods affects all citizens' quality of life," she said.
Bernstein's interest in the anti-gun-violence campaign occurred due to "a confluence of things in my life," she said. She as always been politically active, although not specifically with gun issues. She contributed to the Brady Act campaign, but this is the first time she has taken an activist role on the issue, she said.
As the group discussed the impact of gun violence locally, many members said they had been personally affected, she said.
"A trauma surgeon spoke about how she has seen horrors in her work; a school teacher survived a sniper attack in her school where she worked; another person had a member of their family be killed in L.A. This is the rippling effect of gun violence," she said.
Bernstein and Barbara Harley, a neighbor, said that during discussions of what group members wanted, one of the first things everyone agreed on was a gun-buyback program. They said they could encourage sponsorships to get guns out of homes and off the street.
Each member took on a task, such as looking at gun-related safety policies in the schools and talking to the police department, Bernstein said.
One way to protect local students would be for schools to send letters to parents informing them that they would be legally liable if their child were to use a gun that they have in the home.
"A lot of parents are not aware of it, although it is the law. It would be good for Palo Alto schools to have a straightforward and uncomplicated policy," she said.
Harley said the group is being sensitive to their use of language. They want to communicate in a nuanced way that is not alienating to people who own guns but who also can see a need for change.
"We want to present ourselves in a way that is a catchment of both sides," Bernstein added.
The group plans to use social media to spread their message. The next meeting will include a Twitter workshop for the less-technology savvy members.
"The Tea Party did this, and they got so much power, so why not those against gun violence?" she said.
"It's the time — it's a critical time," she said.
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