San Diego Coalition Gains Reforms and Allies

Before the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted at a meeting in January 2022 to require that gun owners safely store their weapons and to ban the possession or distribution of the parts used to make unregistered and untraceable “ghost guns,” Carol Landale spoke in favor of the legislation.

Five months later, Therese Hymer urged the Board of Supervisors to approve legislation authorizing lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers who violate state laws. 

“It’s about more than manufacturers,” Hymer said before the board approved the bill. “By focusing on dealers in the industry, we address not just the shooter in crimes, but also the supplier of the crime gun,” she said. 

Both Landale and Hymer are board members for San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP), a coalition of more than a dozen gun violence prevention organizations. Incorporated in 2018, the coalition’s members are using their voices and time to tackle gun violence on multiple fronts: legislation, education and outreach. 

“We started off with the two small chapters of Moms and Brady, and now we’ve got 1,500 people on our mailing list and are about to add another 200 (from sign ups at a recent Pride festival),” Landale said. “I attribute it to people saying they’ve had enough.” 

San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention’s origins go back to 2017, when Landale headed the San Diego region’s chapter of Brady. The retired teacher said she became involved in gun violence prevention after the massacre in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

The tragedy also gave birth to Moms Demand Action, a national grassroots organization. It was around 2017 when a group of gun-reform advocates started a San Diego chapter of the organization. 

“We were each going to each other’s meetings and decided, let’s just join together,” said Landale.

The new coalition incorporated as San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention in 2017 and began partnering with other local organizations involved in gun-violence prevention, including faith-based groups and violence interrupters, who intervene in disputes to prevent retaliatory shootings. 

San Diegans’ 18 partners also include Survivors Empowered and two local survivor-led groups — one started by a couple whose son was taken by gun violence (Jr.’s Trauma Care Initiative) and another launched by a woman whose husband and brother were killed (the TWEEN SWAG Foundation).

They are not just advocating for stronger laws. One of the coalition’s current projects is to educate school districts about a new state law requiring that they, beginning in September, send notices to parents about safe storage. 

“It’s a dry letter,” said Landale. “So what we’re doing is trying to provide a little bit more incentive to school districts to make it more user-friendly to parents.”

The coalition and its members also pass out information on safe storage, and gun-violence restraining orders (California’s term for extreme risk protection orders), at community events. 

Additionally, they partner with an organization to educate victims of domestic violence; have developed a flier with tips on gun safety and safe storage; and participate in “walk and knocks” with other community organizations and police. 

“We literally go walking and knocking on doors in areas where there’s been a recent shooting,” she said. “This is to provide the neighborhoods with our information, but also just to say, ‘We’re here for you.’”

In February 2022, SD4GVP organized a kick-off event for Survivors Empowered’s year-long Honor with Action Tour

The coalition is still working for additional much-needed reforms. Five of its members were outnumbered by anti-reform speakers at a recent meeting of the La Mesa City Council, but the council voted to revisit a safe storage proposal that failed to pass last year. 

Landale believes it will eventually pass, but with the caveat that guns be secured only when the owner is out of the home. Even that compromise may prevent the sort of tragedy that occurred in July, when a 3-year-old living in San Diego County somehow found a parent’s unsecured gun and shot and killed their 1-year-old sister. 

“When people read stories like that, they call us, they join us,” Landale said. “[They say], ‘We’ve got to do something.’ And we do.”

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