First published in the June 4 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
A few dozen or so gathered Tuesday at the Glendale Civic Center plaza to mourn and search for hope, in the wake of a turbulent May that saw numerous instances of gun violence shake the nation to its core.
The moment, organized by a local woman, prominently featured last week’s tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, when a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school. But it was also impossible not to mention Buffalo, New York, where a man killed 10 in a grocery store after posting a racist manifesto online. Nor could attendees avoid the near-enough Laguna Woods, where a doctor was killed as he tried to stop a man who targeted a church in what authorities say was a politically motivated shooting.
It was also impossible to not be frustrated by the “feckless leadership in this country that prioritizes their political futures over the lives of others,” as Mayor Ardy Kassakhian put it, frustrated by the “grown-ass men who cannot figure out what to do about this cycle of violence.”
“I think it’s important we come together as a community, that we come together as a people, to look in each other’s eyes and say I share that frustration,” the mayor added Tuesday.
Attendees wore orange, in observance of the nationwide movement against gun violence held each June. There also were homemade orange ribbons made available, to be pinned on outfits in a show of solidarity. Others brought signs demanding change, calling for peace and highlighting the names of those killed in mass shootings — including those in Uvalde, which were read aloud in memoriam.
The Rev. Shane Kinnison, who is senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Glendale, said the Uvalde tragedy has “cost the state of Texas and the nation a high price it will never be able to pay” and likened the cultural obsession with firearms to scaling a mountain to offer sacrifices to an odious deity.
“It is a heartbreaking thing every time we see something like this happening,” Kinnison said, later adding, “May God help us come to the day when we no longer trek up the mountain of the gun industry and no longer sacrifice the innocents among us.”
Kassakhian, too, addressed what he viewed as a social ill here, derisively recalling how Texas Gov. Greg Abbott several years ago posted a tweet encouraging Texans to pick up the pace on firearms purchases after slipping to second place — behind Californians.
“A guy like that does not deserve to be in office,” Kassakhian said. “Someone who is valuing his state by how many of its residents are buying guns does not deserve public office.”
Kassakhian also recalled another story from years ago, when a gun show hosted at the Glendale Civic Auditorium drew public ire for its location across from a community college campus and down the street from an elementary school. He related its presence to a moment in which he said a boy who “couldn’t have been older than 17” held him up at gunpoint on Brand Boulevard.
“How does someone get to the point where they think they need a gun to get what they want?” Kassakhian posed, speculating that firearms’ pervasiveness is part of the equation.
“Eventually, it programs you to think a certain way,” he added.
Activists were eventually successful in pushing the city to ban gun shows on public property in Glendale, in spite of counter-advocacy by gun rights groups. Kassakhian said this highlights how politics can be successful.
“There’s always something that can be done,” he said. “You don’t always have to feel helpless.
“This may be a small gathering,” Kassakhian added, “but I guarantee you there are more of us than there are of them. We have to keep fighting.”
Ingrid Gunnell, a candidate for school board, said she organized the event to create a space for people to decompress and reflect. She emphasized to attendees that being there meant something.
“We didn’t know if it would be five or 500 people out here today,” she said, “but even one person can make a difference. All of you out here are making a difference here tonight.”