SOLANA BEACH — In light of the most recent spate of mass shootings, North County residents are making their voices heard.
Dozens of concerned activists and locals have gathered on Solana Beach’s busiest thoroughfare in recent weeks to protest gun violence and a lack of action from policymakers, holding up signs labelled “common sense gun laws now,” and “do something.”
The growing effort, now drawing upward of 40 people every week, started with just one dedicated Solana Beach resident.
The morning after two back-to-back shootings left 30 dead in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio; Kathy Murphy grabbed some signs and headed out to Lomas Santa Fe Drive, just north of the I-5 on-ramp.
“I had to do something,” said Murphy.
On day one, Murphy protested solo. But on day two, she was joined by five more; on day three, by 10. And from there, the protest took hold, with over 100 people participating in total over the course of a few weeks. The effort lasted for eight days in a row the week after the shootings, and now the group is going out every Saturday morning.
The participants are predominantly members of NeverAgainCA, a Del Mar-based anti-gun violence organization that formed after the Parkland, Florida, shooting in early 2018. The group is best known for protesting gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, although they have become increasingly involved in pushing for gun control legislation at the state level.
As the protest gained traction, NeverAgainCA founder Rose Ann Sharp invited other local organizations to take part. As a result, members of Moms Demand Action, the local chapter of the Brady Campaign and Veterans for Peace have joined in solidarity.
“We haven’t lost our own issues, but we support each other,” said Sharp. “This is too big an issue for egos … this is coming together on a common crisis.”
Sharp told The Coast News that such protests help to reinforce the actions of policymakers, particularly those in North County.
For example, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have all passed resolutions opposing the sale of guns and ammunition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds — largely in response to the vocal protests of community members such as those affiliated with NeverAgainCA.
And Solana Beach will soon consider an ordinance on safe gun storage — echoing a similar ordinance recently adopted by the city of San Diego. Sharp is hoping that other North County cities will soon follow suit.
“(Policymakers) have to see the community support to be able to do this,” she said.
Solana Beach City Councilwoman Kelly Harless, who brought the safe gun storage ordinance to city staff, participated in the protests along with her daughter. She said the series of protests represents a “turning point” for the local group.
“I think it’s reflected in many different places that people are not willing to let this fall to the background anymore, as has happened with mass shootings in the past,” she said.
Harless said her daughter, Robbie, took count of how many encouraging honks the protestors received from passersby. She tallied 547.
“That’s not even counting the thumbs ups and waves,” she said. “We had such an interest. People were joining spontaneously, some people would park their cars and join us.”
Although the recent protests have maintained a bird’s eye view of gun control issues, NeverAgainCA members are gearing up for a more focused protest on Sept. 28. The organization’s members plan to protest the Del Mar Fairgrounds gun show — which is returning after about eight months on hiatus.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association — which operates the Del Mar Fairgrounds — put a moratorium on the show in the fall of 2018 due to local opposition. However, a court-ordered injunction will allow the show to continue for the foreseeable future.
The San Diego County Gun Owners PAC lauded the court’s decision, with Executive Director Michael Schwartz calling the long-held event a “professional, educational, legal and responsible gun show.”
Assemblyman and Majority Whip Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) introduced a bill in early 2019 that could ban the sale of firearms and ammunition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds outright. The bill is currently in committee after passing through the assembly.
Photo Caption: Residents gathered in Solana Beach to protest the most recent mass gun shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio. Photo courtesy of NeverAgainCA.