This Dad Lost His Son to Gun Violence – Here's His Message For Parents Feeling Hopeless Now

·3 min read

On May 24, 2014, a group of reporters gathered at the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s station for an update on a horrific shooting rampage. A gunman had murdered three people in his apartment building and then went on a shooting spree, killing two young women outside of the Alpha Phi sorority house and a young man at a deli, who was identified as 20-year-old Christopher Michaels-Martinez.

It was Michaels-Martinez’s dad, Richard Martinez, who got up in front of reporters to speak that day. “Our family has a message for every parent out there. You don’t think it’ll happen to your child until it does,” Martinez said, per CNN. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights, what about Chris’ right to live? When will this insanity stop?”

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Then, he told the crowd: “We should say to ourselves, ‘Not one more.’”

Martinez hadn’t planned to make that speech. The spontaneous, powerful words that came out of his mouth would mark the beginning of a fierce battle, one that he’s continued to fight year after year.

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Today, Martinez is a gun violence prevention advocate for Everytown, a non-profit working to end gun violence. When we called him to ask what concerned parents can do right now, in the wake of yet another heartbreaking school shooting, he had three words: “Volunteer, donate, vote.”

Head to Everytown‘s website, and it really is that simple. There’s a “Take Action” tab that allows visitors to select the amount of time they have to volunteer. Five minutes? You can sign a petition. 30 minutes and you will receive an invite to take part in a Summer Series that offers actionable steps for fighting gun violence. If you have an hour, you can take part in an event near you. There are also plenty more options to volunteer from home, like reaching out to constituents in key voting districts.

“Sometimes, people [have a] feeling of helplessness because they look at the situation in Congress,” Martinez told SheKnows. “But there are things going on across the country that give us reason to hope. I mean, even in a pro-gun state like Florida, after Parkland, they passed the gun safety measure. They passed a red flag law in Florida, which allows parents or law enforcement to petition the court for an order to remove guns from somebody who is a danger to themselves or others.”

He points to Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) as another sign of hope. In 2012, her 17-year-old was killed by a stranger, who confronted him with a gun while he was playing music in his parked car. Her son’s murder turned McBath into a gun control activist. She left her job as a flight attendant, began working with Everytown and, in 2018, won a seat in Congress.  Yesterday, she defeated incumbent Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in Georgia’s seventh district and will continue her efforts to advocate for gun control as a House democrat.

People talk about self-care, Martinez said. Well, self-care for him is continuing to fight so more success stories like McBath’s happen. “I can’t accept the way my son died,” he said. “I can’t accept that in the 21st century and the United States of America that my son had to die in the way that he did.”

He understands why people might be feeling helpless right now. But — he explained — every person has a choice to take action. “You can do something,” he said. “It’s crystal clear that doing nothing doesn’t work. I mean, that’s what we’re living.”

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