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Community members attend a remembrance and anti-gun violence call to action held by the family of Anthony Cruz-Santos, who was killed in a July 2021 shooting in Woodbridge. Several attendees have essentially relaunched the local Moms Demand Action gun control group after after a recent spate of shootings.

July 11, 2021, was a day of celebration. 

Edwin Santos enjoyed a party for his graduation, birthday and the recent birthday of his cousin, Anthony Cruz-Santos.

The next morning, the family received news that Cruz-Santos had been killed in a shooting in Woodbridge.

“To this day, we don’t necessarily know why,” Edwin Santos said. “We can’t just stay quiet. We can’t let his case be a simple case that happened a year ago and nothing happens.”

The slaying awakened a call to action, and Santos joined other Prince William County residents to fight growing local gun violence.

Those residents have revived the local chapter of Moms Demand Action after a continuing spate of shootings in the county. At least four people have been killed and 12 injured in nine shootings in Prince William since May, including a 9-year-old girl hit by a stray bullet.

Now hosting chapters around the country, Moms Demand Action started in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Local chapter lead Shantell Rock, who is also chair of the county’s Racial and Social Justice Commission, began mobilizing to respond to the shootings earlier this year. After the 9-year-old was shot in May, “it kind of activated a call of action on my behalf with community partners,” she said.

“The consistent shooting is getting out of control,” she said. “I feel like there has been no action.” 

Byron Jenkins, the chapter’s data lead, said it’s difficult to tie the shootings to one specific problem.

“It’s kind of hard to put your finger on what’s going on,” he said.

Many of the shootings have involved teenage shooters or victims. Santos, who is serving as the chapter’s student lead, said local youth can’t legally buy guns, so it’s important to prevent them from accessing firearms.

Students also need to be encouraged to report troubling or suspicious behavior by their peers, Santos said.  “A lot of times youth, especially high school students, they’re afraid to go to authority … because they’re afraid of snitching on their friends when they don’t understand the implications.”

Cruz-Santos’ family held a memorial for him and a call to action on July 30. 

Rock said officials need to strike a balance between “a level of accountability” for youth caught with weapons without having their futures ruined through the legal system.

“A lot of time when we’re advocating against the school-to-prison pipeline, we’re excluding accountability,” she said.

Group leaders said they plan to work with legislators, police and the legal system to make a difference. The group’s first meeting is scheduled Sept. 1. 

Santos called for people concerned about gun violence to take concrete action.

“We’re actually putting our hands and feet to create the change we need and not just reposting something online,” he said. “I hope this article isn’t just something that people read and share.”

 

Nolan Stout covers Prince William County. Reach him at nstout@insidenova.com or @TheNolanStout on Facebook and Twitter.

(15) comments

Dick Grayson

Rock said officials need to strike a balance between “a level of accountability” for youth caught with weapons without having their futures ruined through the legal system.

This paragraph explains the problem clearly! What an idiotic statement. The legal is not ruining future! The actions of these animals are ruining their own futures! Until responsibility is owned nothing will change!

Quit looking for others or other things to blame! While buffoons may claim “it takes a village”, we all know if the parents do not put in place and enforce rules at home, the “village” can only take out the garbage!

Steve Carte

Why are people focusing on guns as the issue? Blame an inanimate object for committing crimes? Really? How about we look into the demographics of those committing the crimes and figure out why they are turning to violence as an answer to the issues in their lives.

Gun laws are becoming more stringent. Universal background checks have been in effect for 2+ years now, yet rates of gun crimes are still rising. Time and time again people have given up their rights to see if criminals would stop being criminals. It’s past the time that we allow people to ignorantly blame objects for people’s actions. Criminals need to be held accountable for their actions. The commonwealth attorneys need to do their jobs and prosecute instead of tossing these animals back onto our streets to repeat their crimes. Raise the penalty for gun crimes and enforce. It’s really that simple.

John Dutko

Or we could swing the pendulum the other way and INCREASE the number of weapons on the streets. That will surely help population control.

And this whole inanimate object talking point is stupid. Let's go back to flintlock pistols as the Founding Fathers had.

Steve Carte

I have zero issues increasing the number of firearms “on the streets”. People that use firearms for crime should be held accountable for their actions. I don’t see why you think lawful gun owners should have their access to firearms limited when they are not the issue. Why are you jumping straight to taking firearms away from those that would use them for self defense. Why not focus on prosecuting criminals instead of allowing the CA to drop charges left and right? Straw purchases have been illegal for decades, yet prosecutors continue to drop these charges instead of enforcing the laws. Why should I agree to more laws that only hurt my chance of self defense when you won’t even step up and demand the current laws first be enforced before adding additional laws? At least admit you don’t care about prosecuting criminals and you only want to take guns away from law abiding citizens. Come on, man…

John Dutko

The United States should not have more gun deaths than Afghanistan.

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/11/09/666209430/deaths-from-gun-violence-how-the-u-s-compares-with-the-rest-of-the-world

How bout this: ANY type of gun violence should result in execution. That includes manslaughter, murder (all degrees), accidental, etc...

Even better: Brandishing a weapon will result in an automatic 15 years in prison and permanent forfeiture of your right to carry a weapon. And if caught again, execution.

Let's get all Hammurabi Code in here since all you mofuggas have stupid talking points that never get results or solutions.

Sacagawea Lax

I'm gonna include here my homeys previous post from an earlier article. Maybe it will sink in a bit for everyone:

John Dutko

May 25, 2022 5:20pm

Follow the German approach (not my words):

German gun laws restricts the acquisition, possession, and carrying of firearms to those with a creditable need for a weapon.

They also ban fully automatic guns and severely restrict the acquisition of other types of weapons.

Compulsory liability insurance is required for anyone who is licensed to carry firearms.

The new Weapons Act became effective in 2003 after a school shooting in the city of Erfurt in which a student killed 16 people.

This act restricted the use of large caliber weapons by young people and strengthened requirements for the safe storage of firearms.

Another reform was introduced in 2009 after the mass shooting at a Winnenden school, in which an 18-year-old killed 15 people.

With this reform, a federal gun register was established and new powers were rolled out so the government could intensify its monotoring of compliance with safe storage requirements.

Authorities are now able to request access to the premises of any registered gun owner at any time.

In December 2019, the German Parliament approved new regulations, requiring owners to undergo a security check every five years as well as justifying their need for a weapon.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/germany-gun-control-laws-a4366996.html

This, imho, is a very rational and deliberate way to tamp down on gun violence."

[cool]

Mike Vasquez

Oh great, the group of misled moms hostile to the 2nd Amendment, rallying against things like where lawful concealed handgun permit holders can carry and what types of firearms are available for lawful purchase. I'm SURE these people will take an unbiased look at the root causes of these unlawful shootings instead of solely focusing on the inanimate object... 😒

Lynne June

Want to do something about gun violence? Start by involving the people who work with juvenile offenders, young adult criminals who have in-depth knowledge about the life history and social conditions conducive to these individuals. Ask these folks who’ve worked with thousands of case histories and you’re liable to find the root causes. Only then can something be done.

Sacagawea Lax

One of your better comments.

There's certainly root causes to the madness,.and there is a timeline of reasons for the development of poor decisions. These aren't one time chemical reactions were discussing, there are hundreds of roots and many causes. But the reality is, we can't stop negative outcomes 100% of the time. Or 90, 80, 70, or 60. I can understand collectivism in the sense that unity can be achieved for the greater good. But dumb ocracy has failed us time and time again on that front.

[sad]

George Lawton

Your ridiculous group is doomed to fail from the start because you fail to address the truth and issues at play and instead pivot to inanimate objects like guns guns guns. It’s your behavior and culture that is screwed up!

John Dutko

No.

Americans are violent. It has always been like that. Violence is part of Americana. Easy access to modern firearms made it more lethal.

It's not a hard concept: the easier it is to do a thing, the more it happens.

Easier access to weapons DOES result in higher violent crimes with said weapons.

Dick Grayson

You are such a clown

dave strut

Initiate stop and frisk and target minorities, that will do wonders.

Harry Morant

They need to look in the mirror. These shootings don't happen in a vacuum, the family and community is ultimately to blame (and the biased media, btw). They apparently failed to provide the guidance and roll models these young men need to have a sense of worth and to respect life. I didn't see the word gang mentioned anywhere in the article, isn't that strange. I assume "doing something" is a dog whistle for more regulations on law abiding citizens who own guns, which would be pointless, and would not solve the problems they are concerned about.

Mike Hunt

This. 100%.

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