Last Saturday, Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaaf was at the corner of Coolidge and MacArthur, participating at a "stand-in memorial" sponsored by Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere, or SAVE.
The vigil was in memory of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine, who was killed by gunfire July 17 while she was at a sleepover at her best friend's house (only 12 blocks from where Schaaf herself lives), and Judy Salamon, the beloved dog walker who was killed eight days later in the Maxwell Park district.
But Schaaf is doing more than participating in vigils, as important as these symbolic gestures are. Schaaf, who has represented District 4 since 2010, is sponsoring an ordinance to enact common-sense gun licensing and registration regulations in Oakland, similar to the regulations we have for cars.
The main obstacle is a state law forbidding cities from enacting such regulations, so she is working with 18th District Assemblymember Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, who has introduced Assembly Bill 180 to grant Oakland an exemption.
"It makes sense that a city like Oakland might need different laws than a rural city like, say, Chico," she says. "Oakland has a horrific gun violence problem. Licensing and registration can help you better educate gun owners on safety, gather the data that will potentially identify illegal gun trafficking and more quickly take guns away from people who are prohibited from having them, like convicted felons."
But what about the argument that the bad guys won't register their guns anyway, no matter what laws we pass?
"Because the data we collect can identify patterns that point toward illegal sales. That's how Oakland was able to work with the federal government a few years ago to shut down a gun store in San Leandro that was selling guns illegally to criminals who used them in crimes in Oakland."
AB 180 was passed by both houses and is sitting on the governor's desk awaiting his signature. You'd think it would be a done deal, but Jerry Brown has been on all sides of the gun control issue during his four decades in public life, so supporters are anxiously waiting with fingers crossed.
Many members of the community are urging him to sign it, including Father Jay Mathews, pastor of St. Benedict parish, site of one of the Oakland Police Department's most successful "gun-buyback" events last year.
If you'd like to add your voice, you can email the governor at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: The Honorable Edmund G. Brown Jr.; Governor, State of California; State Capitol, First Floor; Sacramento, CA 95814.
But don't wait. He's due to make his decision by the end of next week.
Gun safety isn't Schaaf's only concern. She is also trying to increase the number of cops on the street. On Nov. 12, the City Council will consider her proposal to fill vacancies in the Police Department as soon as they occur, rather than forcing the OPD to wait its turn in the bureaucratic process.
"It's bad enough that we don't have enough money to pay for the public safety our citizens deserve," she says. "But when they're not filling vacancies? That's inexcusable."
But she is increasingly optimistic that Oakland will come out of this crisis.
"There are too many good people here, too many incredible assets, for us not to," she says.
Reach Martin Snapp at email@example.com.