CITYWIDE — Santa Monica’s small, beachside community was slapped with a spate of violence that left seven dead in five days.
Community members were stunned, and tasked with the difficult charge of putting the pieces back together in an attempt to reestablish a sense of normalcy after the shocking string of shootings.
It began Friday, when a young man killed his brother and father with a semiautomatic rifle and then went on a rampage, taking 1,300 rounds of ammunition on a shooting spree that resulted in six deaths, including his own.
On Sunday, a potentially gang-related shooting resulted in three gunshot wounds to a man in his 30s as he bicycled near Exposition Boulevard, just blocks from where the shooting rampage began the day before.
Finally on Tuesday, one man died and another was severely injured after a man got out of a blue Infiniti at 8:15 a.m. on Michigan Avenue near 16th Street and shot them before speeding off in the car.
As the dust begins to settle, the community has begun to question how to make sure the violence never happens again — if that’s even possible.
Santa Monica has been no slouch about restricting gun sales within its limited borders.
Elected officials voted in the mid-1990s to restrict gun sales to most of a slender portion of the city sandwiched between Olympic Boulevard, Fourth Street, Colorado Avenue and 20th Street, an area that the zoning map calls M1.
Another oddly shaped portion of the M1 district pops up north of the Interstate 10 between Stewart and 24th streets.
They also removed gun shows from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium and restricted those, too, to the M1 district after activists protested that the site was too near Santa Monica High School.
And, despite the fact that firearm sales are technically permitted under local codes, a search reveals no such places to purchase guns in the city. A very recent records request to confirm firearm sale permits within city limits is pending.
Santa Monica is not an island, however.
Just outside its borders, in Culver City and slightly further into Inglewood and beyond, there are plenty of shops where a person can pick up guns and ammunition or training on how to use them.
“You try to do whatever you can, but you can’t control everyone in the world,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor.
She has seen spurts of gun violence in the past, particularly a string of gang shootings in 1998 that left several people dead.
That resulted in an uprising in the Pico Neighborhood and a 1,000-person march that ended in the founding of the Pico Youth & Family Center, a nonprofit that provides outreach to at-risk youth, offering an alternative to the gang lifestyle.
In the wake of recent events, O’Connor advocates group action, using the power of cities throughout Southern California to pick up the mantle of gun control and use their combined influence to create change.
“A single city writing a letter doesn’t make a difference, frankly,” said O’Connor, who recently signed on to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Campaign. “But you join together a lot of cities, and big cities and small cities from all over the country, that can make an impact.”
It’s the kind of joint action that people like Amanda Wilcox want to see.
Wilcox is a volunteer advocate for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and legislative and policy chair for the campaign’s California chapters. She also lost a daughter in a shooting spree.
The Brady Campaign advocates to reduce firearm injury and death, primarily by keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people — generally speaking the mentally ill and those prohibited from owning guns, like felons — and by cutting down on the amount of damage a single gun can do.
They have had success, and in the last 20 years, California firearm mortality has dropped 62 percent as legislators approved more and more gun control measures, making the state one of the most highly regulated in the country.
“That’s never comforting when your community is part of the statistics,” Wilcox said.
A series of bills are working their way through the California Legislature even now, including a package that would eliminate loopholes in existing law that allow people to possess high-capacity magazines with over the allotted 10 bullets allowed for sale under California law.
Key features of those laws target the ability of people with semi-automatic weapons to rapidly drop a spent magazine, reload with a new one and keep firing with barely a pause.
“That seems to be the common thing in these mass shootings,” Wilcox said, ticking off recent tragedies to have struck communities in the United States — 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Conn. and 12 dead and dozens more injured in Aurora, Colo.
Assemblymember and former Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom has been busy in Sacramento putting his support behind measures to restrict access to assault weapons like the type that John Zawahri wielded on his rampage through the city on Friday.
The weapon that Zawahri used may have been assembled using legal parts to get around the law, the L.A. Times reported.
Laws are in place to ban the purchase of the type of weapon Zawahri carried, but parts to modify them is legal.
“I strongly believe that there’s no need for assault weapons to be in the hands of the general public,” Bloom said.
Bloom attended the vigil for the victims of Friday’s shooting at Santa Monica College on Monday and the graduation the following day.
He emphasized the need for greater outreach and support in terms of mental health services, given that the shooter appears to have suffered from mental health problems.
It’s an effort that Santa Monica is trying to take on with its Cradle to Career initiative, Bloom said.
“We need to focus resources on at-risk families at the earliest possible time and follow on over the course of the youth’s growth,” Bloom said. “I don’t think that the importance of our moving forward on that initiative can be over-emphasized.”