Tipping Point: Santana High School

Tipping Point: Santana High School

I live in Santee, California, where on March 5, 2001, a 15-year-old student took an eight-shot, .22-caliber revolver to class at Santana High School. The student opened fire, killing two students and wounding 13 others.

Santana showed me that this kind of thing can happen anywhere, and SD4GVP and similar groups across the nation are dedicated to eliminating shootings in places like schools. We work through legislative action, public education and whatever impact we can have to reduce the glorification of gun violence in the media.

Eliminating guns is not a feasible goal, nor is it desirable. It’s not the guns that kill people, but the people who use them. The easy access to military-grade weaponry and the lack of oversight of the gun market are among the prime conditions that have brought gun violence in this country to where it is today.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a total of 43,156 people died in 2023 from gun violence in the U.S. We need to put an end to this. It will take time, but we need to start now.​

Al Lefcourt is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

Photo credit: Somewikistuff, CC BY-SA 3.0

Tipping Point: My Sandy Hook Quilt

Tipping Point: My Sandy Hook Quilt

On the morning of December 14, 2012, we were preparing our annual Hanukkah party for thirty neighbors and our family. Standing at the head of our dining room table, I placed the menorah on the blue cloth with the box of candles, the matches and my husband Art’s well-worn Sabbath and Festival Prayer Book

The Today Show was on TV but I did not pay attention until I heard the loud announcement: 

“Special Report: 26 children and staff were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.”

It was heart-stopping news to hear – hours before a party attended by eleven young children and their parents. 

Memento for a tragic milestone

That afternoon, coincidentally, we received a special delivery package of a beautiful quilt made by our dear friend Sandy. She had been bugging me for years to let her know what kind of design or pattern I wanted for our quilt. Once I had finally spotted the perfect quilt in a magazine, and Art and I had agreed on the design, Sandy created it.

Of course, neither we nor Sandy could ever have dreamed when the quilt would arrive, or that it would fit the day all too perfectly. It featured abstract windows with peaked roofs spread across the top, and some of the windows showed a cross-hatch design like a target. 

I immediately started thinking of it as my Sandy Hook Quilt because of those windows in the design and the day I received it. But I also looked at the windows as representing the strength of community and the fact that no one wants to be a target. 

That evening the children lit the candles, played the dreidel game and munched on potato latkes, so we grown-ups did not talk about the day’s horrendous tragedy. Later, we lit a separate candle and offered a prayer for the children in Connecticut. I’m grateful we were all together that night. 

Getting involved in preventing gun violence

Two days later, a ten-year-old girl who lost her first-grade brother in the Sandy Hook shooting offered a suggestion to people who own guns. She asked that they leave their guns locked up at a shooting range and use them only there. Seeing her summon that kind of fervor in the middle of her soul-searing, terrible grief made me doubly determined to get involved in preventing gun violence. 

We searched for some way to help. What can you do when it feels as though there’s nothing you can do? We began by donating to Brady International (now Brady United), since they were and are leaders in trying and winning court cases to stop gun violence. Later we joined Moms Demand Action and then San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention. All of those organizations offer opportunities for action.  

We still have our yearly Hanukkah celebration and it remains undimmed by the tragedy and coincidence of December 14, 2012. The quilt is a steadfast reminder of the tipping point we reached that day.

Jane Meyers is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

Photo credit: Jane Meyers

Tipping Point: One Mother’s Poem

Tipping Point: One Mother’s Poem


By Kristen Fogle

I love picking out your clothes for preschool
–Batman or Elmo shirts,
short sleeves, cuffs,
tidy stripes, retro paisley–
but lately I can’t decide…
Better to dress you in bright colors so the teacher will easily spot you
or muted ones so an active shooter can’t?


Kristen Fogle has been the executive director of San Diego Writers, Ink since 2013. She is also a theater director, producer and teaching artist, as well as a writing instructor and a former magazine editor. Her poem, “Untitled,” appeared in A Year in Ink, Anthology Volume 16 in 2023.
©2023 Kristen Fogle
photo credit:

Tipping Point: The Weathervane in the Classroom

Tipping Point: The Weathervane in the Classroom

“The last couple of years have been a hot mess.”

True words spoken by a 16-year-old student a short time ago. While some folks may not relate to this trendy term of “hot mess,” the gravity of the sentiment resonates with almost all of us.

The rough emotional environment

I am a high school teacher. Mentoring, counseling, coaching, guiding, and cheering on kiddos in the classroom have been skills I have cultivated professionally and personally for my entire career.

But only recently have I needed to truly combine my superpowers as a strong pillar of support for the teenagers around me. I have struggled this year alongside students as our society continues to navigate the upheaval of all that we have known to be true.

Because I do not teach in an environment naive to cultural influences, and because teenagers do not learn in a setting devoid of societal pressures, I often take on the role of an emotional weathervane for them. They look to me for signs of calm and potential disruptions, much like the rooftop gauge indicating the course of the wind.

Tipping towards involvement

I think of my tipping point in the context of a weathervane in a storm. Trying to track the shooting events in our country has manipulated any sense of direction, resulting in a constant state of spinning. Emotional, financial and spiritual reconciliation by way of the weathervane has been exhausting.

For me, questions of “how much?” and “how to?” related to gun violence prevention have fluctuated until recently. “How much” can I give to these efforts? What level of involvement is viable and meaningful? “How to” support gun violence prevention? What tangible activities result in consequential change?

Answers differ dramatically by individual and by circumstance, but my personal investment has lately become strong and sustainable. I will go on serving students and families by navigating the winds and facilitating difficult conversations as they arise.

I will also trust my own tracking system. While the weathervane continues to reflect impending storms, I am now learning to watch and listen for signs of change.

Debbie Loomis is the mother of two adult children. She is a former community organizer and now teaches middle and high school students in San Diego County.

photo credit: liz west

Tipping Point: Las Vegas Music Festival

Tipping Point: Las Vegas Music Festival

When I look back, ever since I was a teenager, the effort to prevent gun violence has touched me.

Meeting Jim Brady

I was a Maryland high school student interested in journalism, Washington politics and the press. I remember when the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan left his White House Press Secretary Jim Brady paralyzed from a gunshot wound.

Mr. Brady made it his life’s work to campaign for stronger gun violence prevention laws like background checks. I was lucky enough to meet him at a journalism conference and hear his passionate dedication to the effort. It planted a seed with me that we can make a difference and save lives.

One music festival away from a massacre

My tipping point came much later. As an avid music festival fan, I attend at least three music festivals a year. I love big crowds and the energy of the music!

I was in Las Vegas at the Life is Beautiful Festival in 2017. The following weekend – seven short days later –the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival just down the strip resulted in 58 fatalities and 500 wounded. The horrific images of the crowd of music lovers being shot and killed rocked me to my core.

As details emerged, I learned that the gunman had first considered striking the festival I attended. That meant that I could have been one of the innocent people caught up in that massacre.

“It could have been me,” I told myself – and have continued telling myself ever since. In 2017, I had a really hard time processing the tragedy of that mass shooting, and I am still sad, shocked and scared that it came so close to me.

Time to do something

I couldn’t just be upset and sit idle anymore, so I’ve looked for a way to participate. I joined SD4GVP and have learned a lot about the issues, the facts, the initiatives and ways to get involved.

At my first event, I attended a gun buyback event and handed out information on safe gun storage to people who were selling their firearms. I was surprised at how open people can be to talking about guns and safety in our communities.

This year, I marched in the San Diego Pride parade and staffed the SD4GVP booth at the Pride Festival. The day restored my faith that we can make progress one conversation at a time by listening, learning, sharing and advocating.

Change can be a frustratingly slow process, but I feel better knowing I can be part of making a difference.

Michelle Makowski is a volunteer with SD4GVP. She works on community events and internship coordination.

Tipping Point: Sandy Hook

Tipping Point: Sandy Hook

It was December 14, 2012. I had just gotten off work and was settling into my car to go home. I started the engine. The radio, set to NPR, came on.

I’ll never forget that moment. Robert Siegel was reporting on the massacre of 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The shock I felt in that instant, and subsequent stupor, were comparable only to what I felt on 9/11/2001.

From apathy to activism

I call this my tipping point moment – the moment I was kicked, in the butt, out of apathy and into social action.

I had been blissfully apathetic about the issue of gun violence before. No longer. I quickly joined the local (San Diego) chapter of the Brady campaign, as did several others (still my friends to this day). Soon I was serving on the chapter board.

Fast forward a few years. Local chapters of Moms Demand Action had sprung up in the San Diego region. Some of their members started joining us at our meetings too. We were doing a lot of the same work on the ground, often duplicating efforts. Until one day, when several of us had the idea to form a gun violence prevention coalition, bringing together members of other organizations and independent citizens united in one purpose: END GUN VIOLENCE.

A coalition is born

Thus, San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP) was born. We celebrated our launch on February 27, 2018, and incorporated as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization later that year. I became president and part of an executive leadership team of eight, managing a group with some 50 or so active volunteers, and thousands on our email list.

In the few years we’ve been a formal coalition, we’ve made a lot of progress.

• SD4GVP has become the go-to resource for the media whenever legislation is pending or a mass shooting has occurred (which is far too often).

• We’ve gotten out the vote in local elections for candidates who support sensible gun violence prevention policy, and worked very closely with local, state, and federal officials – mayors, city council members, county supervisors, congresspeople – to achieve meaningful policy change.

• We’ve helped local municipalities pass anti-ghost gun ordinances, and supported our City Attorney in championing gun violence restraining orders (a.k.a. red flag laws) that have become a model for the state and the nation.

• We’ve conducted extensive community outreach at public events, in neighborhoods where violence is prevalent and in schools.

• We’ve invested heavily in supporting intervention strategies to remove the conditions that lead to violence before it occurs.

I’ve found my niche. You can, too.

My own role, which is very gratifying, is to be a public relations spokesperson for the group. I am routinely interviewed by the local media about our stance on gun violence prevention and the unrelenting trend of shooting deaths in this country.

I am so proud to belong to this group of highly talented, competent, professional and committed individuals who tirelessly press on — in spite of a federal legislature that refuses to advance meaningful gun reform.

Every. Single. Day. This coalition is making a difference.

Ron Marcus is president of SD4GVP.

photo credit: Valley Independent Sentinel, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (unchanged)