In the months since his son was shot to death during a massacre near UC Santa Barbara, Richard Martinez has canvassed the country advocating for stricter regulations on firearms.
He can’t remember all the places his travels have taken him — there was the trip to Florida to deliver postcards with his rallying cry, then the long stay in Washington to promote a state ballot measure, and visits with so many parents who have gone through what he has. But he says the last two weeks have been some of his busiest, with only a day and a half at home in between all the flights.
By the time he stepped off a plane in Washington, D.C., on Monday evening, Martinez was exhausted but still looking forward. On Tuesday, he will attend the State of the Union address as a guest of the congresswoman who represents the area where his son, Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez, 20, was killed in May.
Richard Martinez has chosen to build momentum through state legislation and ballot measures but said he hasn’t spent much time working toward changing federal firearm laws. He has no plans for his trip but will spread his message to anyone who will listen.
“I’ve been a Democrat all my life, but I will go campaign for a Republican if they step up on this issue,” Martinez, 61, said from his hotel Monday. “This, for me, is personal. I don’t want any other parent to get the phone call I got and listen to the news I got. It’s awful.”
During his travels, Martinez has partnered with Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting that left 26 adults and children dead.
Martinez wonders what he could have done before another school killing affected him. Christopher and five others were killed and 13 people were wounded in a rampage that was ended only by the killer’s suicide as the police closed in.
FOR THE RECORD
Jan. 20, 9:09 a.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Christopher Ross Michael-Martinez and five others were shot to death in the Isla Vista rampage. Christopher and two others were shot. Three other individuals were stabbed to death.
“Chris was at UCSB in this beautiful place, and it was the last thing you expect to happen to your kid, and it does,” Martinez said. “It’s happening in this country every day. Every day.”
Everytown plastered the words he screamed in the hours after the shooting — “Not One More!” — on 2.4 million postcards, which, Martinez said, were delivered to politicians across the country. Before he uttered his catchphrase, Martinez blamed “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA” for his son’s death, then vowed to fight back.
In August, Martinez was in Sacramento when a bill that would allow guns to be temporarily seized from people determined to be dangerous was approved by the state Senate. He and Robert Weiss, whose 19-year-old daughter, Veronika, was shot to death in the May rampage, celebrated together the passage of the bill.
Gov. Jerry Brown eventually signed the legislation, authorizing law enforcement officers or family members to ask a judge for a restraining order preventing possession of a firearm for 21 days. Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista killer, had guns despite his family’s fear that he posed a threat.
Weeks later, Martinez was in Washington state, championing a ballot measure to close loopholes in federal laws regarding background checks before firearm purchases. The initiative passed with 60% support.
“I can’t believe that the gun lobby can win,” Martinez said. “They’re worried about profits, we’re worried about our kids.”