My daughter, Veronika, meant the world to me. A brilliant mathematician, a loyal and caring friend and only 19 years old, her future was as bright as her smile.
But in an instant, she was gone.
Veronika, the love of my life, was one of seven people killed in a 2014 shooting in Isla Vista, near UC Santa Barbara.
Since her death, far too many mothers and fathers have experienced the same horrific pain that my wife and I carry with us every day.
Last year in the United States there were more than 300 mass shootings, defined as shootings with three or more victims. Despite a constant cycle of horrible tragedies at concerts, schools and houses of worship, our nation still lacks effective gun safety laws.
California has stepped into the void on the issue, enacting some of the strongest gun laws in the country. Last year, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed laws banning bump stocks, prohibiting sales to anyone under 21 and limiting ownership for people with records of domestic violence and mental illness, among other reforms. Gov. Gavin Newsom takes office with a promising record on gun safety.
Given the lack of federal leadership, new partners should step forward to boost California’s gun safety efforts, starting with the private sector.
From small retailers to Wall Street, some responsible leaders have already emerged. Citigroup has refused to do business with anyone who sells bump stocks or high-capacity magazines. The bank has the same rule for would-be clients who sell guns to people who haven’t passed a background check or are under 21.
Bank of America announced it would stop financing companies that manufacture military-grade weapons.
Retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart are taking important steps to curb gun violence. Both require gun buyers to be at least 21 years old. Dick’s has discontinued its sale of assault weapons and Walmart has stopped selling items resembling assault weapons.
Many of these companies face retribution for their actions from the gun lobby and its supporters. Republican members of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee are attempting to take punitive action against Citigroup, including threatening to cancel Citigroup’s contracts with federal agencies. In Georgia, lawmakers pulled a tax benefit offered to Delta after the airline discontinued a tax break for NRA members.
Californians should defend responsible members of the private sector who stand up for gun safety. State leaders should pressure more companies to follow the examples of Citigroup, Bank of America, Dick’s and Walmart.
Striking at the bottom line is often the only way to get a corporation’s attention. Maybe California should give preference in state contracts to companies that align themselves with the values of Californians, or find other ways to encourage responsible behavior.
If local, state and national leaders don’t act now – and if the private sector fails to act – we will continue to lose thousands of Americans to preventable gun violence.
No one should have to endure the pain my wife and I live with. For Veronika and all the sons and daughters whose lives have been cut short by senseless gun violence, we must do more.