National Gun Violence Day Honors Victims and Survivors, But It’s Not Enough
Michael Franti reflects on why the battle against gun violence must continue and not be overlooked
I started writing this op-ed at the end of March, just days after the Boulder, Colorado shooting took place at a supermarket killing 10 people. As I continued to formulate my thoughts in preparation for Gun Violence Awareness Day, today, June 4, when I knew this op-ed would publish with our friends at SPIN, there have been many more mass shootings, many of which never made the news. The ones that did make the news include the March 31 shooting in Orange, California at an office building, an April 7 shooting by former NFL player Phillip Adams, another on April 15 at a FedEx warehouse in Indianapolis, the May 9 Colorado Springs birthday party shooting, and just last week, a shooting just miles from my home in the Bay Area – the San Jose, California railyard shooting. Over 100 people die of gun violence every day in this country which means from the time I started writing this article, just two short months ago, THOUSANDS have died.
In 2018, I put out a song and video about healing from the trauma of gun violence, called “The Flower.” To make the video, I traveled to several states and talked to over 100 people who had been affected by gun violence. I met people who had family members killed at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Route 91 concert in Las Vegas, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, Sandy Hook, street shootings, police shootings, people whose family members had taken their own lives, and one man who had spent 25 years in prison for murder, who was now working every day on the outside to prevent killings. My biggest takeaway from it all was that gun violence has left no community untouched. Each of the family members I spoke with told me that they had painfully become part of a club they never wanted to be a part of – the rapidly growing community of gun violence victims’ families.
Over the past several years, we have seen deaths from gun violence in America continue to rise to nearly 40,000 annually. I live down the road from where the Golden State Warriors play basketball at the Chase Center [in San Francisco], which has a game time capacity of 18,000 people. Imagine if more than two sold-out arenas full of people were killed each year: that is the crisis we face in America today.
Recently we saw the killing of eight people at Asian-owned businesses in Atlanta. Six more Asian women followed a few days later when 10 were killed at a supermarket in Boulder. While watching news coverage of the two incidents, I saw people interviewed in both cities who had strikingly similar comments: “It feels like no one is safe anywhere anymore.” Not at school, a concert, shopping, on the street, in a nightclub, at a massage parlor, in the city, in the suburbs; whether you are Black, white, Latinx, AAPI, and regardless of your gender or sexuality, there is a feeling out there that gun violence can strike anyone anywhere at any time.
The song and video for “You Will Always Hear My Echo,” were put together as a response to what seems like a rise in the climate of hate and violence that we see taking place in the U.S. today. I wanted to make the point that because gun violence leaves no community untouched, that it is up to every single one of us, gun owner or not, to do whatever we can to reduce the number of gun fatalities we see each year and lessen the number of families forced to spend the rest of their lives with the pain of losing a loved one. Every single one of us, gun owner or not, has a role to play in bringing these numbers down. It is time that those of us who are in support of America being a place where people of all ethnicities, genders and experiences are welcome, respected and treated with equity, begin to raise our voices for these values, and say no to the uptick in violence that we see today.
There is often an argument put forth against common-sense gun laws, like universal background checks for all purchases. Gun advocates often say, “Guns aren’t the problem, people are the problem.” Well, if people are the problem, why give guns to “the problem” without ever looking into their history of violence? Why allow semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazine rounds that were designed for wartime to be used by civilians, and then wonder why so many people were killed so fast in such short blasts of time? It is time that Americans take a hard look in the mirror and decide whether the nearly 40,000 deaths from gun violence annually are something we just want to “live with,” and while we are at it, take into consideration those who have lost family members and would give anything just to live alongside those lost once again.
The video for “You Will Always Hear My Echo” takes place in 10 seconds. Almost every family I met with who has lost a member to gun violence told me the same thing. Why did my son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother have to be in that situation in that precise moment of time leading to their death? I hope the video provokes discussion about the fact that whatever we have been doing so far to reduce gun violence, simply has not been enough to reduce the over one hundred people a day who die from gun violence in America. Let us listen to the echoes of those who have been lost, as heard through the voices of their family members, and work together to make sure fewer and fewer families each year become part of the club of survivors that none of them ever wanted to join. We can do this!
Let us acknowledge that today is Gun Violence Awareness Day, where we honor those who have lost their lives to gun violence and the many others impacted in communities around the country every day by committing ourselves to fight for an end to gun violence. I encourage you to join me in Wear Orange Weekend June 4-6, where we can all come together in solidarity to represent the gun violence community by wearing the color orange. I will be wearing orange this weekend as I embark back on tour for the first time in nearly a year and a half to join my band, Spearhead, at one of our favorite venues, Red Rocks Amphitheatre. We ask that you too wear orange this weekend in remembrance of all those that have been impacted by this epidemic and to join us in this fight to end gun violence once and for all.
Visit www.MichaelFranti.com/Activism for more information on how you can join us and take action in your own community.