Youngsters were held tight at vigil mourning the 19 children and two teachers in Texas.
Youngsters were held tight at vigil mourning the 19 children and two teachers in Texas. Photo by Chris Stone

The outrage was fresh, but the signs and sentiments were dated.

At a candlelight vigil Wednesday outside the County Administration Center, San Diego CPA Tama Becker-Varano held a sign depicting blood spatters on a school milk carton and classroom floor — with play blocks lettered N, R and A.

Remarks by the Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn at vigil. (PDF)

She’d brought the full-color poster to previous anti-gun rallies.

“I don’t think a vigil is going to change anything,” said Becker-Varano, with Indivisible 52, among 170 people gathered in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre. “But I felt compelled to come out of respect for the victims. … I think it’s going to take mass outrage. .. Put pressure on our elected officials.”

The Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn of Vista La Mesa Christian Church read from remarks she gave at a vigil after the 2017 Las Vegas concert slaughter.

“It’s time to protest with gory photographs outside gun shops and holler about dying babies at those going in to buy the instruments of death,” she said. “It’s time to reject the lie that nothing can or will change. It’s time to confess our complacency and despair, and wind each other up to the point where we will dare to get loud and obnoxious, even in the face of danger.”

Southeast San Diego native Essie Mae Horne again told a crowd how her husband had been killed in a 2006 home invasion (by a teenager) and her twin brother slain in a drive-by shooting a decade later (by boys 16, 17, 18 and 19).

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Tama Becker-Varano says she’s displayed her “brought to you by the NRA” sign at previous vigils or rallies. Photo by Chris Stone
Aeiramique Glass Blake mourned the young lives lost. Photo by Chris Stone
An organizer of the vigil hailed the diversity of the crowd. Photo by Chris Stone
Parents brought children to the vigil for Texas shooting victims. Photo by Chris Stone
Orange is worn ahead of June’s Gun Violence Awareness Month. Photo by Chris Stone
Young people took part in the Uvalde candlelight vigil. Photo by Chris Stone
The Rev. Rebecca Littlejohn and Bishop Cornelius Bowser bookended the event with sermonlike remarks. Photo by Chris Stone
Vigil-goer held a candle carrier with a message. Photo by Chris Stone
Member of crowd listens to Essie Mae Horne, who lost her husband and twin brother to shootings. Photo by Chris Stone
Lights were held by scores at the Waterfront Park vigil. Photo by Chris Stone

“That’s trauma. That’s a life sentence,” said Horne, diagnosed with depression, PTSD and anxiety. “One of the hardest days in my life was to identify my twin’s body in the morgue.”

Organized in part by a new political action committee, the event also heard from Bishop Cornelius Bowser, a gang-prevention expert and activist who said in an opening prayer: “Dear Almighty, we know that we don’t need a right to bear arms. We need a right to live. We need a right to be safe in schools, a right to be safe on the job, a right to shop safely at the store. … Dear Creator, take the guns away and we will be safer.”

He said God has shown that there’s “nothing sacred about the Second Amendment. Sacredness is in our humanity and our human rights. … Make it as difficult to buy a firearm as it is to buy a can of beer.”

Aeiramique Glass Blake, a former Assembly candidate in the 79th District, said she was planning a George Floyd anniversary event and waiting for an Escondido City Council meeting at an adjacent park when she read about the young Uvalde victims.

“I sat in the park for an hour, and I looked at the faces of each child that was killed,” she said. “Children were running past me and playing.”

America is making it “so easy for their lives to be taken in a second,” she said. “This should not be a discussion we continue to have. This should never be a debate. … We need to get activated like never before.”

Ellen Nash, chair of the Leon L. Williams San Diego County Human Relations Commission, rang a tiny gong on a table 38 times — for the 21 dead and 17 wounded in Texas.

Also speaking were longtime gun-safety activist Wendy Wheatcroft, a former San Diego City Council candidate, and Max Coston, a campaign staffer with sheriff candidate Dave Myers.

They made reference to a new political action committee called Safer CA PAC — yet to officially launch — aimed at raising money to support gun-control policies and candidates. Wheatcroft and Coston are co-founders of the group, which already has a Twitter and Instagram presence (with Facebook and events to come).

“This is like the next evolution [of my activism] to directly counteract the San Diego County Gun Owners, who raise a lot of money and support their candidates,” Wheatcroft told Times of San Diego. “We have a little bit (in the bank).”

Michael Schwartz is executive director of San Diego County Gun Owners, which promotes Second Amendment rights and candidates.

Asked for comment on the new anti-gun PAC, he said: “Don’t care. The side that is taking away civil rights always ends up on the wrong side of history.”

Schwartz added his thoughts on the Texas tragedy: “Our staff and our members are deeply saddened. It is disheartening to see so many politicians use this tragedy to further their existing anti-gun agenda, when what is needed is a unifying discussion on what the nation can do to change criminal culture and fix the inadequate mental health system.”

Wheatcroft, who bought the tiny gong at a teacher supplies store, homeschools her two youngest kids. She didn’t know what to expect for a turnout.

“It’s very difficult to gauge our RSVPs, especially when they are so last-minute,” she said after the 45-minute event at dusk. “I think the scale of the tragedy and the fact that it was children really speaks to people. I think the diversity of this crowd is one that I’ve never seen before. So I think that people are really galvanized right now.”

She added: “We really need to seize this moment and stick together — because there’s more of us than there are of them.”