Fighting back: how Marin County is combating gun violence

November 5, 2019

Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Dec. of 2012, over 2,000 mass shootings have occurred in the United States. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 255 mass shootings in 2019 alone, leaving over a thousand victims injured or killed. As mass shootings have become increasingly frequent, so have the training, collaboration and improved procedures for gun safety and protection in Marin and across the nation.

Infographic by Isabel Ames

A significant milestone in the history of California’s gun laws was the enactment of the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law in 2016. The law allows individuals to report someone in possession of a firearm who may be a threat to themselves and others. Hamid Khalili, captain of the Central Marin Police Authority, has become well versed through considerable experience on the procedures of the GVRO.

“Let’s say you have a friend who’s made some suicidal statements or [threatened] to cause harm to other people and they have possession of a firearm,” Khalili said. “You can call, give us an in-depth report of what’s actually occurred, what the statements are and then we do our own investigation. If it meets that threshold we go and apply for an emergency GVRO. The judge will grant that to us and we can then seize the firearm and ammunition immediately.”

Despite how useful the GVRO law can be for individuals, the main issue is its low awareness level. The law depends on a general public understanding to be effective, as it is a tool for individuals to work alongside local authorities to prevent gun violence. It is especially helpful for threats made on social media, as it is not possible for law enforcement to monitor every threatening post. 

In an effort to raise the law’s profile, Marin County officials have made several efforts to raise the awareness of this law, according to Khalili.

Courtesy of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence

“Unfortunately, I don’t think [the GVRO law] is something that most people are aware of in Marin County,” Khalili said. “I know that recently our district attorney Lori Frugoli put out an editorial in the [Marin] IJ. Prior to that, Marin County put together a special training session for all Marin law enforcement on the awareness of [the GVRO] and how to go about it.”

Marin’s district attorney Lori Frugoli has worked in a number of ways to raise awareness of the GVRO law. She has worked closely with the Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action, two non-profit organizations united in their goal to end gun violence. Together, they produced an editorial on the GVRO for the Marin IJ and plan to publish information on many social media platforms. Frugoli hopes the law will inspire more people to speak up about gun violence suspicions or incidents.

“There’s lots of power in [the GRVO] and plenty of room to stop gun violence if people have the knowledge,” Frugoli said. “I think it has great potential if people know if you see something, say something. A family member or even a roommate can do it — those are the two biggest groups of people who can call and they’re the people who usually see things.”

At the law enforcement level, a number of changes have occurred in response to mass shootings.

“It’s taken these tragedies to occur for all of us, not just law enforcement… to get together, share information and collaborate,” Khalili said. “How we respond to these events has drastically changed since 1999, pre-Columbine. Columbine was really the catalyst for law enforcement in evaluating how we respond.”

According to Khalili, gun violence procedure and prevention training has become a larger focus for law enforcement.

“We do a lot of training within the local communities to teach them how to respond to a [mass shooting], should they ever be in that situation,” Khalili said. “I just want [everyone] to know that local law enforcement, fire officials and government put a lot of focus on our abilities to handle these types of events.” 

At Redwood, determined activists are fighting daily for solutions to the gun violence epidemic. Senior Lindsay Dubin volunteers regularly with the student-led initiative, Team Enough, which educates and mobilizes young Americans across the country to reduce mass shootings. Dubin also founded Redwood’s Students for Safety club, which offers education on gun control and violence as well as opportunities for members to join initiatives to end gun violence.

Redwood activist Lindsay Dubin (middle) poses with California congressman Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson at a gun violence-related town hall meeting.

“Team Enough does a lot of lobbying. Sometimes we’ll go to Sacramento to do speeches on [the Capitol] steps and organize rallies. We also do a lot of voter registration drives to get teens voting. I think one of the most crucial aspects of what we do is… educating students on how they can help, what the problem is and how it can be fixed,” Dubin said. 

Despite all the action against gun violence in Marin, Khalili believes mindset is the most important aspect to keep Marin safe from gun violence. 

“We need to change the mindset that [a mass shooting] can never happen here,” Khalili said. “Marin is a very safe place for people to live and raise a family, but the sad reality is that when you look at these events, they happen in small towns and communities [like Marin]. Public education is everything. I would much rather prevent these events than have to deal with responding to one.” 

 

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