Our View: Santa Barbara DA takes a stand on gun violence
Without leaving her elected post, Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce Dudley has taken on a national role in the fight against the scourge of mass shootings.
She will join Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark as volunteer co-chair of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, an organization whose members represent more than 60 million people in 24 states. Dudley and Clark will take over from the group’s founding co-chairs, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Dudley is no stranger to the problem of gun violence in our communities, having endured the aftermath of the Isla Vista mass killings in 2014 and witnessed the 2018 Borderline Bar & Grill shootings in adjacent Ventura County.
In Isla Vista, seven people including the shooter died, and 14 were injured in a combination of gun, knife and vehicular violence. Amid missed warning signs including a manifesto posted online, the rampage led to enactment of the first red flag laws, which give prosecutors, courts and law enforcement agencies the ability to seek orders to remove guns from those who are deemed to be an imminent threat due to behavioral health issues.
The Borderline shooting in Thousand Oaks claimed 13 lives, including the shooter and a Ventura County sheriff’s sergeant. The shocking event upended the normally tranquil life in the Conejo Valley, and the death of Sgt. Ron Helus rippled across law enforcement agencies regionwide. Behavioral health issues figured heavily in the investigation into the shootings.
“Tragically, my county has been devastated by acts of gun violence,” Dudley said in a statement that also acknowledged that many gun owners are “both safety-conscious and law abiding.” With a nod to the Borderline tragedy, she added: “I hope to reduce gun violence both locally and in our neighboring counties and states.”
The nonprofit convenes prosecutors and other stakeholders to “discuss policies, legislation, and strategies to help prevent and confront gun violence in their jurisdictions,” the statement said. Forums have included discussions about gun safety, illegal firearms trafficking, mass shootings and how to remove guns from domestic abusers. It has filed supporting briefs on cases related to untraceable “ghost guns.”
For communities up and down the Central Coast that have been affected by mass shootings and gun violence in other forms, this is important work. Dudley’s decision to step up is a noteworthy tribute to our many victims.
Amid harvest celebrations and other joys of fall on the Central Coast we want to recognize some recent passings.
Condolences to the many friends and family of Fillmore Councilwoman Ari Larson, who died unexpectedly in her sleep earlier in September. Elected in 2020, she had been a Citizen of the Year, a Rotarian and Soroptimist, and a person who was 100% devoted to her community. Our thoughts are with her husband Pete and family.
In Port Hueneme, the city is mourning the loss of two former city councilmembers, Doug Breeze and Ellis Green. Port Hueneme has been on a roll recently, with brighter prospects for its economy and expanded partnerships with the Port of Hueneme. These losses will be felt by family members and the community at large.