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    Marching and Acting to Stop This American Carnage

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large–

    The United States of America is number 1—and that’s not something to be proud of in this case. In fact, it’s something to be ashamed of and to work to change, because the U.S. is number 1 for gun violence.

    Other nations throughout the world do not tolerate this level of violence and unnecessary death, and neither should we. I am proud to stand in solidarity with all of the amazing young people who are now mobilizing to fight for common sense gun laws, and with all of the people throughout our communities who have been fighting on this issue for years.

    As I told a reporter at the recent March for Our Lives in Oakland: “… it’s not only important to have a conversation about gun violence when it happens to a large group, but the daily fear of gun violence that plagues so many of our communities has to be a part of it, too.”

    We must work not only to stop the shootings that make national news, but also for the ongoing gun violence harming so many in communities like Oakland without national attention. The victims of gun violence are disproportionately African American, while large corporations, owned predominantly by wealthy white men, profit by the unrelenting flood of gun sales. And, for decades, even well-funded federal agencies have done little to stop the spread of weapons of war and illegal guns into our communities.

    There are reasons why a large, diverse, city like Toronto, Canada, (where I lived as a teenager) doesn’t have shootings like the U.S., and the primary reason is that, in the U.S., there is widespread availability of guns, including those sold illegally on our street corners.

    Federal enforcement officials could and should be using their efforts to track down and shut down illegal gun dealers and straw buyers. But their efforts have been nowhere near the scale needed, and at times it seems they are going out of their way to avoid going after gun crimes.

    In fact, on the morning of a large deadly school shooting in Oakland years ago, numerous armed federal agents flooded into Oakland—and did nothing whatsoever to help with the shooting nor to catch the shooter. Instead, they brought a massive armed force to seize and shut down Oaksterdam University and a City of Oakland permitted cannabis dispensary. While OPD was responding to the worst mass shooting in living memory, the feds demanded that OPD divert numerous police resources to help them with their cannabis raid! At the time I said, and I continue to advocate, that it is insane to focus armed federal enforcement response against licensed cannabis facilities instead of using them to go after gun violence.

    So, what are the solutions? At the federal level we must ban assault weapons, implement universal background checks, and redirect federal resources to shutting down illegal gun access. More guns in our schools, such as arming teachers, is not the answer! And, since we know we can’t just rely on federal action, we must also continue to work for local action as well. Oakland, for example, should prioritize our own law enforcement resources to stopping gun violence and shutting down illegal gun sources, including:

    • responding immediately to notifications of shootings;
    • using technology and community relations effectively to identify and shut down sources of illegal guns;
    • enforcing the requirement that everyone (including law enforcement) not leave guns unsecured where they can easily be stolen;
    • and retaining the pilot program I fought for and won in the previous budget, to have our police respond immediately when they receive notification of shootings, and to collect and trace evidence such as shell casings.

    I stand in solidarity with our youth and will continue to fight for common sense gun laws.

    Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember; she was re-elected in 2016.