What do you say to a man who’s only son was randomly murdered by a mentally-deranged sociopath?
“Sorry for your loss,” just seems inadequate. Nevertheless, that’s what I told Richard Martinez when I met him Saturday at an Everytown for Gun Safety rally at Riverfront Park in downtown Nashville.
Martinez’s 20-year-old son Christopher, a college student at the University of California Santa Barbara, was shot and killed during the Isla Vista spree Killing in May of last year.
Immediately following the tragedy, Martinez lashed out at the nation’s gun lobby while talking to reporters.
“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the N.R.A.,” said Martinez, fighting back tears. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.”
Not long after Martinez joined up with Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Michael Bloomberg, the co-founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and their joint gun-control organization Everytown for Gun Safety to advocate for tougher gun laws.
I wanted to give Martinez an opportunity to speak directly to the gun community. I wanted to see if there was something that perhaps we could agree on. And there is, we all want to reduce gun violence. But how we go about doing it remains an issue of debate, which is often contentious and vitriolic.
I think what I learned in talking to Martinez is that while I’m not going to change his mind on the Second Amendment and he is not going to change my mind, perhaps we can be a little more civil in how we address one another. It’s easy to hate gun control advocates you don’t know and disagree with. But hate gets us nowhere. It only retards our mission to win over more hearts and minds.
I’ll continue to extend a hand to those on the other side of the gun divide. Why? Because I believe that we’re all human and we’re all entitled to believe what we want to believe. And who knows, if I continue to offer the olive branch, I may just end up getting more people to see the light.