Students and faculty at the University of California–Santa Barbara are understandably in shock after the murder of six innocent people Friday in the Isla Vista community that borders the campus. Over the next few weeks, there will be many memorial services, tributes and other events to remember the victims and provide family and friends with opportunities to mourn. But if UCSB students, alumni, faculty and staff want to channel their feelings into constructive action, here’s a suggestion: ask the University of California Regents if its $88 billion endowment is contributing to gun violence by being invested in gun companies that fund the National Rifle Association (NRA) and obstruct common-sense gun policies. If it is, demand that the UC system divest itself from these merchants of death.
America mourns with the families affected by this latest mass shooting. We face the responsibility to work together to stop the epidemic of gun violence.
“Not one more,” said a heartbroken Richard Martinez, the day after his 20-year-old Christopher, a UCSB student, was killed in the Isla Vista tragedy. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live?”
The following day, Martinez made additional comments: “There’s a tendency to think that this was a madman and that we can’t do anything about it. I think that’s an easy out. I don’t believe it. I know this is a complicated problem but I do believe it has a solution.”
Martinez is right. There is a solution, and it starts with putting economic pressure on the gun industry. The companies that manufacture guns and ammunition and the NRA are responsible for the United States having the weakest gun laws among modern democracies. In April of 2013, a few months after the Sandy Hook massacre, the gun lobby killed legislation to extend background checks for gun sales, ban assault weapons and limit the size of guns’ ammunition magazines.
The NRA has even used its political clout to block medical and academic research that would help us understand and end the epidemic of gun violence. According to ProPublica, “Since 1996, when a small CDC-funded study on the risks of owning a firearm ignited opposition from Republicans, the CDC’s budget for research on firearms injuries has shrunk to zero.” Last week, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) filed a bill that would fund the CDC research. The NRA issued a statement calling Markey’s bill “unethical” and an “abuse of taxpayer funds for anti-gun political propaganda under the guise of ‘research.’”
Although the NRA likes to portray itself as representing grassroots gun owners, only about 4 million of the 90 million American gun owners are NRA members. The bulk of the NRA’s money comes from gun and ammo manufacturers that donate millions of dollars to further political obstructionism and fear-mongering among a small but vocal minority of gun owners. The gun makers’ profits—and the profits of Walmart (the nation’s largest seller of guns and ammunition) and other retailers—grow when there are few restrictions on the sale and ownership of guns and ammunition.
“There is a lot of profit to be made for all of this sorrow, all of this death, and all of this destruction,” said Dr. Sheldon Teperman, director of trauma surgery at the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City, who routinely deals with gunshot victims and who was interviewed for a video urging people to unload gun companies from their 401k investments.