“Greetings from San Diego,” says the colorfully illustrated postcard evocative of those sold in Seaport Village gift shops.
But look closer. Inside the outlines of SAN DIEGO are images of James Huberty stalking and slaughtering McDonald’s patrons in July 1984 — “hunting for humans.”
An inscription below seals the grim message: “The town of the San Ysidro massacre.”
In the latest effort to jumpstart gun-control legislation, the nonprofit group Change the Ref aims to raise awareness of mass shootings and reform gun laws via more than 50 postcards meant for members of Congress.
“The goal is to flood the inboxes and mailboxes of Congress so they’ll not only listen but enact change,” the group said of shamecards.org. “And with a new administration in place, the hope is that we can influence real change this time around.”
The reverse side of San Diego’s “shamecard” notes the America’s Finest City nickname, “and it’s not without reason,” the card says. “But it is also known as the place where a man entered a fast-food restaurant and fired a semiautomatic, a shotgun, a .45 caliber, and a 9mm at unsuspecting customers. After killing 21 and injuring 19, the man died in a gunfight with local police.”
The note concludes: “Is this how San Diego wants to be remembered?”
Times of San Diego contacted press secretaries of the county’s five members of Congress, Mayor Todd Gloria’s office and several local tourism agencies. They were asked about the San Diego shamecard — inviting them to defend the city’s honor.
In statements, Democratic Reps. Mike Levin of the 49th District, Scott Peters of the 52nd and Sara Jacobs of the 53rd reiterated their efforts to achieve new gun legislation. But they wouldn’t comment on the reputational hit the cards represented.
“Gun violence is a serious issue in our country and I stand with advocates and families who are trying to make our communities safer,” Levin said. “I was proud to co-sponsor several bills to require background checks on all gun and ammo sales, ban assault weapons, and encourage states to implement extreme risk laws.”
He added that he also led the bipartisan Prevent Family Fire Act to expand the use of safe storage devices for firearms — similar to San Diego’s ordinance.
“I look forward to reintroducing that legislation in the 117th Congress and working with my colleagues and advocates to address gun violence in our country,” said Levin, who once hosted shooting victim Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman, at a 2018 Solana Beach campaign event.
Peters cited San Diego’s “painful and sad history of shootings.”
“In Congress, I’ve fought for commonsense gun safety reforms and in 2016, I live streamed a sit-in on the House floor to protest GOP leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on a gun safety measure,” he said. “I’ve also cosponsored the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 to make our neighborhoods safer.”
Last month, Peters reintroduced the STANDUP Act, which urges schools to carry out suicide prevention training for students in grades 6 through 12.
And Jacobs, the newest local member of Congress, said through a spokesman she wasn’t involved in this project, but appreciates efforts to raise awareness of the devastation of gun violence.
“She recognizes gun violence is a national problem that has touched every community, including San Diego,” said Will McDonald, Jacobs’ communications director. “There have been hundreds of mass shootings since the tragedy at San Ysidro and we lose tens of thousands of lives each year to gun violence. Last year was one of the deadliest years on record for gun violence and Congresswoman Jacobs fully supports comprehensive gun safety legislation.”
Democratic Rep. Juan Vargas, whose 51st District includes San Ysidro, and Republican Darrell Issa, who represents Santee and El Cajon in the 50th District, where deadly school shootings took place, didn’t respond to email requests for comment.
Neither did San Diego Mayor Gloria’s office.
Candice Eley, spokeswoman for the San Diego Tourism Authority, said: “Thank you for thinking of us; however, we don’t have anything to provide on this issue.”
Michael Schwartz, executive director of Second Amendment defending San Diego County Gun Owners PAC, responded: “Only someone with a political agenda who is not from San Diego would say that San Diego is ‘known’ for a horrible murder 37 years ago.”
He added: “What is shameful is taking away good people’s ability to defend their lives by exploiting murdered San Diegans. The reality is anti-gun groups use murders to further their political agenda and our organization uses our political agenda to stop and prevent murders.”
So how did San Diego become a featured city in the shamecard series unveiled last week?
Change the Ref spokeswoman Julia Sohn says San Diego was chosen based on the importance of its worst public gun violence.
“At the time, the massacre was the deadliest mass shooting perpetrated by a lone gunman in U.S. history, being surpassed only seven years later by Luby’s shooting,” she said. “Due to its historical importance, the media coverage, and the impacts in culture, being depicted in movies, literature, and TV, we couldn’t leave this story out.”
Other cards feature shootings at Columbine, Newtown, Charleston and Parkland.
The “shamecards” were illustrated by 30 artists from 25 countries, including the Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Germany, Qatar and Italy — all working for free. One Californian is Arthur Giron of Apple Valley in San Bernardino County.
“Sadly, due to the high volume of mass shootings in the U.S., there’s one for all 50 states,” said the group founded by Manny and Patricia Oliver, parents of Joaquin Oliver, a shooting victim at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “And now, with a bankrupt NRA, new faces in Congress and a new administration, there’s truly an opportunity for … change.”
Benson Chin of Brazil designed the cards for San Diego and Clovis, New Mexico.
“We focused on the talent and the different kinds of artists, giving us a wide range of styles to illustrate the variety of stories we chose to tell,” Sohn said Wednesday via email.
Sohn said Change the Ref hasn’t heard from any San Diego tourism or city officials, and wasn’t sure how many San Diego cards had been sent.
San Diego has adopted several gun safety laws, such as its “red flag” law.
Shouldn’t San Diego get credit for this? Sohn was asked.
“San Diego is ahead of many cities around America when it comes to gun laws,” said the New York-based spokeswoman. “Change the Ref recognizes that and wishes every city walks in the same direction. Since we’re working on a national initiative with stories in the 50 states, our focus is on the particular day as you can see in the back of all the postcards.”