Victims of gun violence honored in candlelight vigil

Victims of gun violence honored in candlelight vigil
About 150 people hold candles and photograms of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting while listening to religious leaders speak in support of greater gun safety measures at the candlelight vigil for gun safety outside of Oceanside City Hall on Feb. 23. Photo by Rachel Stine

OCEANSIDE — North County affiliates of Organizing for Action urged local citizens to advocate for gun safety measures by hosting a candlelight vigil on Feb. 23 to remember the victims of the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. 

“From Sandy Hook to San Diego, there are victims (of gun violence) all over this country,” said featured speaker Rev. Madison Shockley of the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad.Madison spoke with several leaders from local religious organizations before approximately 150 community members gathered last Saturday evening at the Oceanside City Hall courtyard.

The local chapter of Organizing for Action, an advocacy nonprofit for President Barack Obama’s national agenda, advocated for universal background checks for all gun buyers as well as a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.

Volunteers from the nonprofit encouraged attendees to write their legislators to sponsor such measures at a state and national level.

“It takes more of a background check to adopt a dog or a cat than to buy a gun,” said Rev. Beth Johnson of the Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Vista.

“Our society needs to change. There’s too much violence, too many guns,” said Oceanside resident Jack Burgess at the event.

Many of the vigil’s attendees held photos of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Rolf vom Dorp, one of the event’s organizers, held a photograph of 6-year-old victim Benjamin Wheeler. He said he chose Wheeler because he and his wife have two sons of their own.

“If we had experienced the same thing, it would have been terrible,” vom Dorp said, fighting back tears.

Though the vigil tightly focused on the victims of Sandy Hook, the event followed an unprecedented number of shooting incidents in Southern California in recent months.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore pressed for better gun safety measures in a press conference following a Feb. 20 SWAT standoff in Encinitas in which two deputies were shot and wounded.

“I think we can have that conversation (about gun safety regulations) without talking about people’s 2nd Amendment rights, but having some common sense solutions,” said Gore, advocating for universal background checks and better mental health resources.

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