For years, Suzanne Verge has been trying to educate people about gun violence and urge them to advocate for change. They’re finally listening.
The recent mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub has shoved problems surrounding gun safety and gun control into the national discussion, drawing in citizens who may have avoided the issues in the past.
“People are coming out and saying, ‘I can’t stand by anymore — I’ve got to be part of the solution,’” said Verge, the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “But we can’t come up with a solution unless we have these tough conversations.”
Verge, a Santa Monica resident, will be featured in a panel discussion about guns following a screening of the documentary “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Santa Monica College. The event, hosted by the local community college’s Public Policy Institute, will be held in Room 165 of the Humanities and Social Sciences building on the main SMC campus.
The panel will be moderated by institute co-director Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and will also include Rep. Ted Lieu and the film’s director, Robert Greenwald.
According to the League of Women Voters of Santa Monica, the screening and discussion were planned long before the recent spate of gun violence that has fueled debates across the country about public safety and the Second Amendment. The league has expressed its support for Proposition 63, a November ballot measure in California that would ban the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month signed a package of gun-control bills that were introduced following last year’s attack in San Bernardino.
“When we have these mass shootings, people say, ‘If there was a good guy with a gun, it wouldn’t have happened,’” Verge said. “But in Dallas, there were plenty of good guys with guns.”
Verge, who was referring to the recent shooting deaths of five police officers in Texas, carries a personal tragedy into the cause. Her brother was killed in Santa Monica at the age of 18.
But she believes gun violence is an issue that resonates deeply in Santa Monica, which has seen its share of gun violence over the years, including the 2013 shooting rampage at SMC. Shortly after the recent Orlando massacre, a man in Santa Monica who was reportedly heading to the gay pride parade in West Hollywood was arrested after local police found a large cache of weapons in his car.
“We are not exempt,” Verge said. “Santa Monica doesn’t have a high incidence of gun violence, but people are still very concerned. People are paying attention. People are upset. People are engaged on this issue.”
Verge said she’s optimistic that the state and country can make progress on the issue of gun violence.
“We have so many people calling their House representatives and senators,” she said. “People are realizing they have to make the call and they have to vote on this issue. We need more people. This needs to be a priority.”