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    Too Many Guns, Not Enough Treatment

    By Rafael Mandelman

    Three people were recently shot in broad daylight in Dolores Park, just days after a man shot his elderly mother in Corona Heights, just weeks after a 71-year-old San Franciscan was shot and killed atop Twin Peaks, and less than two months after the killings of three UPS workers in Potrero Hill.

    San Franciscans tend to think of our city as an island apart, 49 square miles surrounded by reality. But however unique and special our city may be, there is no escaping America’s epidemic of gun violence. Earlier this year, we saw reports that, notwithstanding an overall decline in violent crime in San Francisco, acts of gun violence were increasing.

    The national statistics are grim indeed. More than 30,000 Americans die each year from gun violence. Americans are twenty times more likely to die from a bullet than in other developed countries. Regular readers may remember a prior column in which I reflected on the tragic historic relationship between guns and the LGBT community, from Harvey Milk’s assassination to the Pulse nightclub massacre a year ago. 

    I know many of us feel hopeless—we hear so much about gun violence that it’s easy to feel paralyzed or grow inured to what seems like a never-ending stream of gun tragedies. Barack Obama grew increasingly frustrated through his presidency as Congress refused to pass meaningful gun safety legislation through tragedy after tragedy.

    But neither paralysis nor indifference are acceptable responses to the challenge of gun violence. President Obama grew frustrated, but he never gave up, and neither can we.

    Here’s what gives me hope: we are not starting from scratch—powerful, brilliant and motivated people all over America are fighting every day and pushing a coordinated strategy to end gun violence. I recently donated to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (, an organization started by parents of students killed at Sandy Hook. They have offices in all 50 states and are taking on the NRA every day in D.C. They could use our help, time, and donations.

    In addition to our financial contributions, we also have to make sure that San Francisco is using our loud voice to push change at the state and national level. As an elected member of the San Francisco Democratic Party leadership, I pledge to do my part to make sure our party’s platform always includes loud and clear demands for strong gun control.

    Finally, these troubling events reinforce the need for a complete overhaul of our mental health services. I have written before in this column about the experiences of friends and family who have suffered from mental illness. And I have, here and elsewhere, expressed my tremendous frustration that the public response to this great public health challenge has been so clearly and terribly inadequate.

    While not every shooting death is directly connected to this issue, many are, and we have an undeniable mental health crisis in San Francisco that is affecting every one of us on a daily basis. We see it playing out on our sidewalks, in our parks and plazas, and in our Muni stations. The fact that the Corona Heights shooter had been released from an involuntary 5150 psychiatric hold just two months ago hints at a broader failure to get mentally ill individuals the care they need to keep themselves and others safe. 

    We must demand a far more robust response to our community’s mental health needs. That means investing additional resources to ensure the availability of mental health and drug addiction treatment and facilities to those who need them, and, in some cases, it means insisting on treatment for those who are incapable of making a reasoned choice for themselves. 

    In the wake of this summer’s shootings, we should give the families affected by gun violence more than just our thought and prayers. Each of these tragedies imposes on us a moral obligation to ensure that the victims and their loved ones have not suffered in vain.   

    A New Chair for the Democratic Party

    At the July meeting of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, the Committee unanimously elected as our new local Democratic Party Chair former Supervisor David Campos. To my mind, there is a delicious irony, in this era of Trump, for our San Francisco Democratic Party to be led by a gay man who came to this country as an undocumented immigrant. I look forward to working with Chair Campos to cause as much heartburn for President Trump and his Republican enablers as possible. 

    Strong Showing for Leno

    Mark Leno’s quest to make history as San Francisco’s first out gay mayor had some good news recently, with Leno reporting that he raised more than $166,000 in the first two months of his campaign. With more than two years to go before the November 2019 election, it is far too early to call the race, but, if there had been any doubt, Leno has shown that he is the early clear frontrunner.  

    Rafael Mandelman is a Deputy City Attorney for the City of Oakland. He has served as a member of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees since 2013, and was a longtime Chair of the Board of the San Francisco LGBT Community Center.