The deadly February mass shooting in Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — which left 17 dead — reignited the national debate on gun control and energized a new generation of gun control activists. But in the months since, there have been a string of other mass shootings across the country.
Less than two weeks after 11 were shot dead at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, there was yet another mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, late Wednesday night when a former U.S. Marine dressed in black opened fire inside a crowded dance hall.
Johnson City activists responded to the news of the latest mass shooting with disbelief and with horror. They said the recent shooting is more evidence that more needs to be done when it comes to legislative policies on gun control.
“I’m heartbroken that lives continue to be lost and families are continually forced to mourn their loved ones because we can’t have a real conversation nationally or locally about gun violence. Until we address these issues by enacting common-sense gun laws, we will continue to suffer,” Washington County Democratic Party Chairperson Kate Craig said.
“This should never be something that’s commonplace where news articles on tragedies like this one are shared with the status ‘another one.’ And yet that is what has happened.”
Craig said the recent midterm elections brought mixed results nationally, “but a definitive message came from the ballot box to National Rifle Association-backed incumbents who were voted out of office.” She said local activists looking for more “common-sense gun laws” will continue to push on.
“As we look to 2020, the Washington County Democratic Party will continue to recruit candidates who believe in keeping our communities safe by supporting common sense gun laws. Until then, we will hold our elected leaders accountable, voice our concerns and spend time discussing the issues so that progress can be made. Safety shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Craig said, adding that there would be a moment of silence to remember the victims during Thursday’s Founders Park demonstration against the removal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The local chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group of activists who advocate gun control measures, also weighed in Thursday morning and expressed their condolences to the California community.
“The Tri-Cities chapter of Moms Demand Action send heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, and the communities of Thousand Oaks, Pepperdine University, and California Lutheran University,” Vicki Powers, the leader of the organization’s Tri-Cities chapter, wrote in an emailed statement.
“Hundreds, if not thousands of people, will be affected by this shooting,” she continued. “We are committed to taking action to honor them and all the gun violence victims in this country. Our lax gun laws continue to make these shootings commonplace.”
Tennessee Rep. Micah Van Huss, a Republican who won re-election this week to the state House in the district covering the north side of Washington County, disagreed with Powers’ criticism of state and national laws.
“There are evil people in this world, whether they use guns, knives or fists,” Van Huss said. “Speaking for myself and on behalf of my constituents, I want to be able to defend myself and my family.
“Good guys with guns are what it takes to stop bad guys with guns.”
In his time in Nashville, Van Huss has proposed a number of bills aimed at expanding Tennesseans’ right to own and carry firearms, including a constitutional carry bill, which would have allowed residents to carry handguns without being required to obtain permits. The bill, and another like it, was defeated in the House Civil Justice Subcommittee.
John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, a group dedicated to ardently supporting and expanding citizens’ rights of gun ownership, said in an email Thursday he was not prepared to make a statement on the California shooting.
California authorities believe the gunman, Ian David Long, ultimately killed himself after taking the lives of 12 people.