Burbank Officials Mourn Uvalde Shooting, Pledge Changes

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader | The fl ags at Burbank City Hall were at half-staff this week after at least 19 children and two teachers were killed at an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

First published in the May 28 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

The Burbank City Council chambers were silent on Tuesday. Led by the Rev. Julie Davis, pastor of the Little White Chapel, visitors bowed their heads in memory of the at least 21 people — including 19 children — killed in an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, earlier that day.

It was the second moment of silence held in the council chambers in as many weeks. On May 17, Mayor Jess Talamantes asked for a moment of silence to honor those killed in a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

“It’s just tragic,” Talamantes said on Tuesday. “They had a future ahead of them, many years ahead of them. It’s unfortunate their lives were taken.”

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill sent an email to families after news of the shooting broke with a list of resources for talking with children regarding the event.

“Safety is our No. 1 focus for our staff and students,” Hill later told the Leader, “So, every year, we review our safety protocols, we do drills, we work closely with the Burbank Police Department to focus on training opportunities and assessing our plans as well.

“When something this heartbreaking and tragic happens, we sit down and look at our plans and learn from what happened there to see if we need to make additional adjustments. It’s an ongoing process. It’s definitely heartbreaking, so we focus on our safety plans and on our mental-health resources.”

Resources for families and educators are available at the National Association of School Psychologists website; the American Psychological Association; and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Amid the grief, many Burbank community members expressed fury that elected officials haven’t done more to prevent mass shootings. Some also took to social media to voice frustration with the number of gun stores operating in the city, some just a few blocks away from John Burroughs High School.

Little research has been done on whether the presence of gun stores affects gun violence. Burbank appears to have significantly more firearms dealers per capita than its neighbors. City staff members said in February that 14 dealers operate in the city, or roughly 13 per 100,000 residents, compared to 4.1 per 100,000 residents for Glendale and 0.97 for Los Angeles.

Despite this, the only highly publicized case of a Burbank gun store being involved with a criminal event was in 2014. That year, a gunman purchased firearms and ammo from Burbank, Los Angeles and Goleta, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2015, before launching a series of misogynistic terror attacks in Isle Vista in 2014, killing six people.

A 2020 analysis by data scientist William Chon indicated that Burbank was the second city in the country with the most gun stores per capita. However, that analysis relied on data from business review website Yelp, meaning dealerships not listed on the service would not have been included in the dataset.

The City Council directed staff members in February to determine whether having gun stores in residential neighborhoods has a negative effect, with the intent of potentially limiting their presence.

City Attorney Joe McDougall cautioned that such regulations would have to address a specific issue connected with gun stores, and would need to avoid encroaching on court-established gun rights.

That report will likely not return to the council until around the end of the summer, McDougall said this week, as city departments are still analyzing gun sales and crime statistics.

Talamantes also asked that the police chief address the Burbank Police Department’s strategy for preventing and addressing school shootings at the council’s next meeting.

Some council members took to Twitter to address community members’ concerns. Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony, who first floated the idea of a report on gun stores, noted that his own son is a 4th-grade BUSD student.

“I will not sit idly by as this next generation faces the horror of gun violence as so many Americans have before them,” Anthony said on Twitter.

Councilman Nick Schultz, a deputy district attorney with the state of California, also affirmed his support for regulating the presence of gun stores in Burbank.

“Last night, I came home from work & put my daughter to bed,” he wrote on Twitter. “But there are parents who can’t do that because they lost their kids to gun violence. People are angry & distrustful of promised government action. All of us in government must do more to deliver on these promises.”

Some state legislators are trying to make California’s gun-control laws, already the strictest in the nation, even tighter. A bill co-authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, who represents Burbank, that passed the Senate on Tuesday would let private citizens sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells illegal assault weapons, “ghost guns” or ghost gun kits in California.

The bill, requested by Gov. Gavin Newsom, was partially conceived as a rebuke to a Texas law allowing private citizens to sue those who help someone attain an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.

Another bill would let individuals and California governments sue gun manufacturers and dealers over “irresponsible, reckless and negligent in the sale or marketing” of firearms. Opponents have denounced both bills as unconstitutional.

— Oscar Areliz contributed to this report