Q&A with Jill Cooper, member of advocacy group NeverAgainCA

NeverAgainCA members met with local residents outside Vons at the Lomas Santa Fe Plaza in Solana Beach.

Local group NeverAgainCA, which has advocated for gun safety measures, recently held a “Conversations with Families About Gun Violence Prevention” event in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two adults. Jill Cooper, a member of the group, discussed the recent event and some of the group’s other goals in a Q&A.

The following conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness. (This Q&A was held before the July 4 Highland Park shooting at an Independence Day parade in Chicago where 7 people were reported to have been killed as of press time.)

Q: How did the tragedy in Uvalde spur the event that NeverAgain held on June 11 outside Vons at Lomas Santa Fe Plaza in Solana Beach?

Cooper: That was our tipping point, what happened in Uvalde. And we had seen the horrifying attack in the Buffalo supermarket in an African American community, and then when the Uvalde massacre took place, that’s when we decided we needed to do something, what are we going to do? In the past, our focus has been on ending gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and we were successful with that. A lot of the people in our group are retired teachers and school administrators, it turned out. And we were very upset and that’s why we started planning, we decided we needed to have some sort of event, so people got together and we decided to focus on the idea of talking to families about how you can be safer. We had literature from [gun safety advocate and retired politician Gabby] Giffords on how to get help when someone might hurt themselves or others, along with something from the girl scouts about how to talk to children if they’re afraid of gun violence.

Q: What did the “Conversations with Families” event entail?

Cooper: It’s one of those things where you try something out and then you get feedback from people who were involved, and we have ideas for how we can improve it. But we call it Conversations with Families about Gun Violence Prevention. And we thought we would just talk to people as they were heading into Vons to do their weekly shopping, and just invite them to do various things. One was write postcards to senators.

Q: What are some of the steps that you were encouraging people to take?

Cooper: In California we have good gun laws. In other states that don’t necessarily have good gun laws, their senators don’t really care about hearing from people other than their own constituents. So that was part of the message, if you have an aunt in Missouri you can talk to her and ask her to call her senator. So we’re trying to get people to contact friends and family in other states, and ask them to write emails and make phone calls to their senators.

Q: What are some of the key takeaways you wanted people to have?

Cooper: We don’t want people to give up. We want people to think that you actually can do something about gun violence prevention. So we did have some literature out on tables. Something we wrote up was gun violence statistics. We have more guns than people in the United States, 40,000-plus people are killed by guns every year, and it seems like we’re just kind of accepting it. It’s the leading cause of death for American children and teens. But then another part is you can take steps to be safer, so we listed some ways you can be safer.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Cooper: It’s terrible that children nowadays are going to school and that’s in the back of their mind, that there might be an active shooter. We did have some young people, in particular one 16-year-old Torrey Pines High School student who came and she spoke with people there. We had probably at least 150 people who stopped and took literature, read things. Our Torrey Pines High School student was saying she’s tired of going to school and sometimes seeing police officers with guns standing in front of the school because a threat has been phoned in.