There have been 10 communities destroyed by mass shootings this year. Now my community is one of them.
My friend Bruce saw his brother shot in front of him when he was just 6 years old. My friend Camiella has been to more funerals than high school graduations. My friend Sarah’s mother survived the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Then Tuesday, four people were shot to death, plus the shooter, and 10 people were wounded including two children at an elementary school 30 minutes from the home where I grew up in rural Northern California.
Seeing the news break on social media, my co-worker said: “There was another shooting today. This one in California, in Tehama County.”
Never miss a local story.
At that moment – when I realized this shooting was in my community – my heart sank.
For two years, I worked on gun violence prevention advocacy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C., think tank. I helped organize a coalition of nearly 3,000 young people, the majority of whom had been directly impacted by gun violence. On a seemingly daily basis, coalition members would call me to share the hardship and trauma they endured as a result of gun violence. It broke my heart, over and over again.
But gun violence feels different when it hits, quite literally, close to home. As soon as I heard the news, I picked up the phone and started to dial my mom and dad. Fortunately, they are OK.
This was the 166th mass shooting since January 2009, and the 10th mass shooting this year. Even more terrible, this was the 257th school shooting since 2013, and the 49th this year. Every day, 90 Americans are killed with a gun. But what have we done to address gun violence in our communities?
I’ve spent the majority of the past three years in Washington, D.C. I’ve closely observed my congressman, Doug LaMalfa, at home in California, and here in the capital. He has fought consistently to protect the rights of domestic abusers, rather than the victims of domestic abuse and gun violence.
We know how to prevent gun violence. We must implement commonsense laws to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands, and invest in community-centered approaches that address the root causes of gun violence. But whenever a shooting breaks through to the national news, members of Congress extend their “thoughts and prayers,” and do nothing more.
Rep. LaMalfa has received more than $6,000 from the powerful National Rifle Association. Accordingly, they have given him a 93 percent score for his positions on “gun rights.”
As the community that raised me deals with the aftermath of this shooting, my thoughts will be with the victims, their families, and their friends. But thoughts are not enough.
Now, more than ever, we must ensure that our elected leaders know that we will not accept gun violence as the norm. We can, and must, do better. We can’t afford another mass shooting, another child slain walking home from the bus stop, another husband or wife killed in a domestic dispute.
Please call Rep. LaMalfa and ask that he honor his constituents, who were killed, by supporting legislation to prevent senseless gun violence. Here’s his number: 202-225-3076.
Nicholas Kitchel worked on national gun violence prevention advocacy at the Center for American Progress for two years. He is a native of Los Molinos and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org