North County students rally for stricter gun control

Caroline Zdanowski, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy, has been rallying her peers to call for legislation that can help end mass shootings.
(Luke Harold)

Following the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Dayton and at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, students from seven North County high schools told the community and their elected representatives that they’re entering a new school year feeling “not entirely safe in the places where we learn and grow.”

“We need action and we won’t wait any longer. We simply cannot,” said Caroline Zdanowski, a junior at Canyon Crest Academy and member of the student-led Team Enough San Diego chapter, an advocacy group fighting for laws such as universal background checks and an assault weapons ban.

She added that “we have the power to finally make change.” Team Enough members hosted a gun control forum at the Encinitas Community Center Banquet Hall on Aug. 23 with local leaders including U.S. Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear.

In February, local Team Enough students hosted a town hall attended by students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students were shot and killed by one of their classmates in February 2018. Stephan Abrams, a junior at Del Norte High School and Team Enough member, mentioned the bulletproof vests and other measures his peers now take because of Parkland and similar tragedies.

But the students’ call for legislation to help reduce gun violence has remained elusive at the federal level. Two bills to strengthen background checks were introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives and passed largely along party lines. Both have stalled in the Republican-led Senate, where most Republicans favor an uninhibited interpretation of the Second Amendment. The NRA joined gun control opponents in opposition.

“We’ve got to demand that the Senate and [Sen. Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) specifically, but also this administration, put the interests of the American people, the safety of future generations, ahead of the NRA,” said Levin, who voted for both bills in the House.

Closer to home, Gloria has a bill pending in the state Legislature that would ban the sale of firearms and ammunition at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The state-appointed board that overseas the fairgrounds attempted to ban gun shows on the property, but a San Diego judge earlier this summer provided a temporary injunction to allow them to continue. The lawsuit, which was initiated by B&L Productions, which holds gun shows at the fairgrounds every year, is pending in federal court.

“I’m confident that if we can pass this here in San Diego, that we can replicate this at other fairgrounds across California,” said Gloria, who is running for San Diego mayor.

The assemblyman also mentioned a proposed summit this fall with his counterparts in the Nevada State Legislature on how the two states can work together to prevent gun violence. The shooter in Gilroy purchased an assault weapon in Nevada that he wouldn’t have legally been able to acquire in California.

Blakespear compared the students’ activism to the fight for civil rights legislation in 1960, which was preceded by grassroots activism throughout the country.

“It’s not going to come from the top down, it’s going to come from the bottom up,” she said. “You can do anything when you have public sentiment behind you.”