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After Judge Overturns State’s Assault Weapon Ban, Moms March Against Gun Violence in Mountain View

Roughly two dozen people wearing orange t-shirts marched in downtown Mountain View on Sunday to speak out against gun violence. The event, which organizers had been planning for months as part of Gun Violence Awareness Weekend, happened to take place just two days after a San Diego federal judge overturned California’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons.

Volunteers with the San Jose chapter of Moms Demand Action met at Mountain View City Hall before marching down Castro Street to the Mountain View Transit Center and back. Organizers said they wore orange to honor survivors and victims of gun violence and were also marching to honor the victims of the VTA mass shooting.

The group carried large plastic bags filled with 2,700 handmade origami boxes, each box representing a life lost to gun violence, as part of a partnership with the Soul Box Project, started by an artist in Portland to raise awareness of the United States’ gun violence epidemic.

“You don’t really know who is a survivor of this epidemic,” said event co-organizer Rachel Michelson to the assembled volunteers, kicking off the event. “And I think there’s much more of us walking around, maybe we don’t even realize it ourselves, that are indeed impacted.”

The soul boxes will be shipped to Portland next, and will eventually make their way to Washington D.C. where they’ll be included in an exhibition of 200,000 other boxes on the National Mall this fall.

“It’s estimated that in a year time frame in California, we will have 3,000 gun violence deaths,” ​Michelson said.

Michelson said they did a similar event with soul boxes last year in response to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival which left four people dead, including the gunman, and injured 17 others.

Volunteers with Moms Demand Action San Jose, each carrying 100 soul boxes, march down Castro Street to raise awareness of the ongoing toll of gun violence. (Courtesy of Moms Demand Action San Jose)

She added that they had been planning the Mountain View event for about six months, and they chose to march over to the transit hub because on Sundays there’s usually a farmers’ market and they could get more eyes.

But the hub is also a Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority station. A fact difficult to ignore after the mass shooting over a week ago which left nine VTA employees dead.

“It certainly is poignant,” Michelson said. “So sadly, I hate that there is that. And the universe worked out that way.”

Erin Cizina, a volunteer with the group, said she used to take the VTA light rail up and down from central to northern San Jose before the pandemic forced her, like many others, to work from home. And she said her family and her neighbors heavily rely on public transportation to get around.

The VTA has suspended light rail and bus bridge service while it recovers from the shooting, showing one of the ripple effects a mass shooting can have on a community.

“It makes it extremely difficult for those people that are in between, who either don’t have a vehicle or aren’t yet able to drive,” Cizina said.

Cizina said changing gun regulations isn’t enough, “we need to actually change the culture,” she said.

To Cizina and the other volunteers, showing support for those affected by the VTA shooting meant being vocal and standing up against gun violence.

“In the Bay Area, we have probably the best public transit in the state,” Cizina said. “And we’ve got to maintain that. We have to support them. And whenever possible, we have to utilize the services.”

The almost 3,000 soul boxes volunteers carried as they marched through downtown Mountain View. Each box represent a life taken by gun violence. (Courtesy of Moms Demand Action San Jose)

As the group walked through the farmers’ market, they caught the attention of ​William Brown, a subcontractor who works at the VTA light rail yard where the shooting took place.

Brown said before the shooting, he worked at the rail yard five days a week, in the building where the shooter took his own life. He said he didn’t know any of the victims personally.

Brown said he supports red flag laws, and more extensive background checks.

“I don’t think people should have 25,000 rounds of ammunition, especially with guns that can kill a lot of people really quickly,” he added.

Brown said he was surprised by Friday’s overturning of California’s assault weapons ban, especially as the economy reopens and people start going out more.

“People who have access to guns and shouldn’t are probably going to take advantage of that,” he said. “And it’s like a fact of America at this point.”

While Brown was glad to see people marching to bring attention to gun violence, he said the issue needs to be addressed more broadly — at the national level, not just state or local.

March organizer Michelson agreed, who said even though California has stricter gun laws, looser restrictions in other states make them less effective.

“The amazing thing about living in the United States is that our borders are open. So while California obviously does have some of the strictest gun laws on the books, it starts to become meaningless if it’s not across our country.”

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