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Advocacy

June 10, 2014

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WHAT: Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing

WHERE: California State Capitol, Rm 126

WHEN: Today at 9:00am

WHY: They were hearing testimony and voting on about 18 Senate bills, including SB 53 

WHICH IS: A bill that regulates the sale of ammunition, requiring sellers to be licensed and requiring purchasers to complete a background check. Basically, it reduces easy access to ammunition by minors, criminals and other prohibited persons and gives law enforcement a tool to find/remove illegal guns.

 

A legislative committee meeting is that weird place where advocacy meets bureaucracy. Each needs the other, I guess. Committee hears from the member whose bill it is and a representative or two of supporting organizations. Short. Senator De Leon was joined by Amanda Wilcox, the legislation & policy chair for the California Brady Campaign and a guy from law enforcement. Committee chair then asks if anyone else in the room wants to record support (in our case, it was about 20). People rise, form line and in the middle of all that, this citizen-advocate-for-a-day added her testimony to the record. Well, testimony… name, affiliation and a yea or nay on the bill. No speeches, just pro or con.

Then they go to the other side, same deal. On the opposing side, far fewer people lined up at the mic (maybe 4-5). They were mic’d down a few times, running on.. as a few did.

A lot of pro forma stuff, but you know what? It felt ROCKIN’! Why? Because it has to happen this way. We have to make changes in our gun laws, and the only place that happens is in the legislature. And progress is measured in these very small ways, but it’s the only way. The focal point of the sensible gun laws side is background checks, so that’s where most of the chipping is going on.

So yeah… standing there in a line of other citizen advocates–most from the Yolo chapter of the Brady Campaign–stating your name for the record when it’s your turn, is that small thing that, when added to the greater effort, actually counts. And, at the end, the bill easily passed committee and will go on to the Senate floor for a vote. Have no idea what to expect there… stay tuned.

After SB 53 was heard, our Yolo Brady group moved into the hall and spoke informally with Kevin De Leon’s chief of staff.  The staffer said that De Leon will be elected to the position of Senate Leader on Monday (assumes his role in November, I read), and in that leadership position may be able to advance more favorable gun legislation.  That seemed like great news. He also said Jerry Brown is pretty weak on gun legislation, that he’s sort of “stuck in the 1950s.” That was disappointing to hear. But De Leon and the Gov will need to work together a lot during De Leon’s leadership term, bartering for this and that will likely happen, so who knows… could be a good time for sensible gun legislation efforts.

The things you learn.

I get that legislative movement is critical, if tedious. But, I think as much effort has to go into shifting public opinion and overcoming that woefully, pathetically misled public who thinks owning and brandishing assault weapons is a right..and somehow makes us all safer. To me, the fascinating part of the challenge is the cultural piece. Fascinating.. not in a good way. An issue for the ages.

As of today, 74 school shootings since Newtown–roughly one per week. Those headlines are accompanied by some numbingly stupid photos of open carry nut cases with assault rifles slung over their shoulders standing in fast food restaurant lines and cruising Target toy aisles…maybe the conversation is reaching a tipping point?

There’s got to be some movement here. The momentum needs to build until there is a critical mass of people who can openly support sensible gun regulations. Enough people have to come out of their blind, NRA-generated, media-fed stupor to realize they’ve been on the wrong side of this one. I wasn’t before, but am increasingly encouraged that massive cultural shifts can occur in our lifetime, having watched what’s happened with with marriage equity.

Thankful for the Jon Stewarts who are calling the NRA out. Thankful for social media.

The work of orgs like the Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action, Americans for Responsible Solution, and others to keep the issues in front of people is really important, too.  And of course those groups also promote and facilitate advocacy.. so they do great work and we need to support them.

Maybe momentum is building and when it does, resistance could fall away (enough of it, anyway) and sanity could be restored.

So.. anyway.. a legislative committee hearing on a Tuesday morning.  It feels like a real place to channel all the rage and heartache and bewilderedness about what has happened to our country.

It feels good to play even a tiny part.

 

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