View Original Notice ? DA Gascón calls on politicians to end hateful rhetoric in wake of Laguna Woods shooting

On the heels of racially and politically motivated mass shootings in Laguna Woods and elsewhere in the U.S., Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón on Wednesday, May 18, called for politicians to stop fanning the flames of hate and violence

“We are in this position today because we have leaders in our country who are willing to disregard public safety, sell assault rifles to 18-year-olds and spread racist hate if it helps them win elections,” Gascón said during a news conference to discuss gun violence and the nation’s need to change gun laws. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. They never have been. We must demand action.”

It’s no surprise that violent hate crimes involving guns are on rise given the propensity of some politicians and news commentators to embrace “hateful, racist rhetoric” to appeal to their base, he said.

“That has to stop,” Gascón told reporters. “Because (addressing gun violence) is complicated, it requires real work and commitment to unity and the greater good.”

Eric Siddall, vice president of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, blasted Gascón for offering little more than “political platitudes.”

“George Gascón talked a big game about reducing gun violence but did nothing to stop it,” Siddall said. “He refuses to hold criminals caught with guns accountable. In Los Angeles, a suspect caught with an assault rifle will be released back on the streets before the arrest report is finished.

“California’s gun laws are the strictest in the nation. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Gascón refuses to enforce them. Now he has the audacity to lecture the rest of the country about the danger of gun violence. His exploitation of this tragedy to spout political platitudes is unbecoming of his office. On one thing we agree with Mr. Gascon: thoughts and prayers are not enough. Nor are press conferences.”

Gascón said he has asked credit card companies not to allow online purchases of so-called ghost gun kits, which consist of untraceable parts that can be assembled into weapons. President Joe Biden has railed against the availability and harm done by  ghost guns.

Additionally, Gascon said, military-style assault rifles should not be available to the public, and more must be done to curb violence by reinvesting in communities struggling to address poverty, homelessness and unemployment.

“We need to come together to support real solutions to gun violence in our communities, ” he added. “In our office, we are doing everything we can to support victims of crime and ensure accountability to prevent violence in our community.”

Additionally, he added that his office has a highly trained Victim Crisis Response Team to provide services if a mass shooting occurs in Los Angeles County.

The team has responded to several shootings with multiple victims, including a 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita and another in 2018 at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks.

“We hope we never have another mass shooting here in Los Angeles County,” Gascón said. “But if we do, my office is here to assist.”

Southern California’s latest mass shooting occurred Sunday, when a 68-year-old man allegedly opened fire on a Taiwanese congregation at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, killing one person and wounding five others.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies quickly apprehended the alleged gunman, whose attack reportedly was fueled by his hatred for Taiwan. Other recent mass shootings have occurred in Buffalo, N.Y. and Milwaukee.

In a separate matter, Gascón announced staffing changes within his office, effective June 1, to provide relief to trial attorneys suffering under crushing caseloads caused, in part, by COVID-19 shutdowns.

Specifically, 13 prosecutors will be temporarily transferred to branch and area offices from specialized units, including environmental crimes, health care fraud, public integrity, conviction integrity, resentencing, parole, consumer protection, extradition, and the Justice System Integrity Division, he said.

The District Attorney’s Office also is in the process of hiring nearly 60 new prosecutors to fill existing vacancies.