Firearms and our forefathers

The great American patriot Benjamin Franklin once said, “Any people that would give up liberty for a little temporary safety, deserves neither liberty nor safety.”

It’s been over three months since a spate of gun violence in our community of Santa Monica that left seven dead.

I was personally affected by both John Zawahri’s rampage that culminated at Santa Monica College, as well as the shooting death of Gil Verastegui that happened only a few blocks away from campus.

I was on campus when Zawahri made his way to the library, and Gil was my friend. As investigations into these separate acts continued, and as the community began to heal, I knew exactly what would follow.

First off, the flood gates opened up on the highly sensitive issue of gun control, leading California Congressman Henry Waxman to host a recent forum on gun violence.

Secondly, as I expected, the Santa Monica City Council and the Santa Monica Police Department reacted very differently to the two incidents.

The Pico neighborhood in Santa Monica, home to the majority of the city’s black and Hispanic residents, and just right across the street from SMC, has historically been an underprivileged and ignored community.

The gun violence prevalent in the neighborhood is largely disproportionate compared to the rest of the city.

Ironically, Zawahri grew up in the same neighborhood, and as cowardly and horrific as Zawahri’s actions were, he too suffered from neglect. Contrary to what many would have you believe, these incidents are not an issue of gun control, but a social issue.

Gun violence in our communities is unfortunately a resulting symptom of a history of oppression, a history of those in power who continue to permeate a message that it is acceptable to shoot and kill an unarmed black teenager and walk free.

This culture, no matter what the news tries to tell you, is still deeply ingrained with covert racism. The ways in which to solve these social issues does not lie within strict and harsh gun laws, nor does it lie within jails and law enforcement.

The solution lies with a complete and radical overhaul of our culture's mentality where people of color are still considered to be less than human, despite the rights that are guaranteed to us in our great Constitution.

Fortunately for Santa Monica, there is one such organization that has dedicated itself to addressing these social issues, to empowering those without a voice, and to successfully rehabilitating and taking care of those with a troubled past.

That organization is the Pico Youth and Family Center, born from the ashes of another spate of gun violence back in 1998. The PYFC is the only organization in Santa Monica that is attacking these issues head on, and working towards real solutions, and unfortunately is punished for it.

This is what I mean when I say a change in mentality, just like Republicans use the acronym "RINO" to stand for "Republicans in name only." The majority of Santa Monica is liberal in name only, and content with maintaining the status quo just as long as their hypocritical sense of entitlement is not disturbed.

The PYFC has been under constant harassment from city hall, at a time when its services are needed most.

The City Council voted in June to slash the PYFC's funding, severely hampering its ability to provide the Pico neighborhood with the services it needs, without so much as a whimper from Santa Monica's faux liberals.

Which brings me to my next point, which is the city's and our nation's culture in general, continuing and extravagant support for the oppressor.

In the aftermath of Zawahri's rampage, I observed countless messages of support and congratulations to the Santa Monica Police Department for the handling of the incident. The local Santa Monica Mirror newspaper even went so far as to print a piece of propaganda that would make Hitler blush.

I first want to say that I have the utmost respect for our Santa Monica College Police Department. As a student, employee, and journalist at SMC, I can say with great certainty that our campus police are by far the most respectful and trustworthy police department I have encountered.

Despite what a fringe element on campus would lead you to believe, the SMCPD does their job the right way. They are constantly outside walking around, interacting with students and staff, making themselves accessible and generally getting to know the population they serve and protect.

This further illustrates my point about a change in mentality. The SMPD has long been an oppressor and a source of hostility in the Pico Neighborhood and to people of color in Santa Monica in general.

I personally have been victimized by them, as have my family and many community members that I know. This was best illustrated perhaps with their different responses to the community healing events that were held following these tragedies.

At the official memorial for the victims of Zawahri's attack, attended by many prominent city leaders and SMC officials, as well as being largely white, the SMPD stood in solidarity with the community, many of them joining the crowd and paying respect to the victims.

One week later, Pico Neighborhood leaders and the PYFC held a candlelight vigil honoring Gil and other community members who have fallen due to gun violence. The crowd that showed up for the vigil was largely black and Hispanic, and instead of marching in solidarity with the community, the SMPD hid in their cars and trailed the procession as if we were under surveillance.

This attitude is something we have grown accustomed to. We are used to feeling like we're in a police state, and we are used to feeling like we're living under martial law. Only now it is happening with alarming regularity.

These faux liberals I speak of have enabled law enforcement to get away with a false sense of security and entitlement.

These same "liberals" paying lip service to equality and justice did nothing when Boston was practically under martial law. They did nothing when SMC students were screamed at with weapons pointed at them during the shooting evacuation by practically every military branch and law enforcement agency in the state.

The SMPD, SMCPD, U.S. Army Rangers, and even the Bomb Squad were all on campus carrying high-powered, high caliber weaponry.

Ben Franklin said, those people who would willingly support that do not deserve to call themselves free and do not deserve freedom.

These faux liberals want to argue that only law enforcement and military should be allowed to carry certain weapons, which is nothing short of tyranny, exactly what our founding fathers fought and died to prevent.

The great Thomas Paine once said, "The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them, the weak will become prey to the strong."

Just to be clear. I fully support a ban on certain types of guns, like many people have advocated, as long as it is across the board.

If law enforcement will not give them up, the American people should not be made to give them up. To advocate that is tyranny, and is allowing our communities to be victimized even more.

It is time for our entire nation to rethink what it means to be an "American." We have not yet achieved a society where, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, "all men are created equal."

We live in a society where real American patriots such as Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are branded traitors, just like the British parliament and King George had labeled our founding fathers.

I consider myself a true American patriot, fighting the ongoing struggle to bring about true equality in our country, and as Thomas Paine once said, "Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it."

OpinionDavid YapkowitzComment