‘It’s a public health issue’

Vineyarders join the nation in rallying against gun violence.


On Saturday, June 11, approximately two dozen Vineyarders gathered at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven to support March for Our Lives, a nationwide call to action for more sensible gun control laws and an end to gun violence. Although the address was different and the number of participants was significantly fewer than the march in our nation’s capital Saturday, the passion for the cause was evident.

Kathy Laskowski of Oak Bluffs made sure to spread the word to The MV Times, and on social media platforms such as Islanders Talk and Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard on Facebook, in hopes that folks of all ages would come out to take a stand. Indivisible organizes standouts and rallies in support of racial justice, immigrant rights, climate change, and healthcare rights, among other important causes. With weekend happenings like the Pride Parade, high school graduation, M.V. Dems, and League of Women Voters, Indivisible Martha’s Vineyard wasn’t able to spearhead this standout, but Laskowski was determined: “I’m just gonna get a sign and go out there. If anybody comes, that’s great. I just felt like I needed to say something because it’s so important.” 

Among the first participants to arrive after Laskowski was Kelly McCausland of Katama. She received notification of the rally through the MV Black Lives Matter emailing list. “It’s just gotten to that point where standing on the sidelines is no longer an option,” McCausland said. “It’s time to make a homemade sign and get on the street corner.” She arrived with one of the largest signs, which read “Ban Assault Weapons.”

Many participants, like McCausland, came prepared with their own homemade signs, but Sarah Nevin and husband Bruce, from Edgartown, members of the M.V. Peace Council, brought a box full of signs for those who came to show support but didn’t have one. Some of the messages on the signs read: “Thou Shalt Not Kill — the original gun control law” and “Congress stand up to NRA.” 

At one point, two unidentified women walked up to the group and donated signs to the cause; one said, “End Gun Violence.” Another sign made by Laskowski and husband Bob, also in attendance, showed a representation of a CDC chart showing that guns are the leading cause of death among our youth. Bob Laskowski, a retired physician, emphasized that gun control isn’t just a political issue. “It’s a public health issue, and our current approach is woefully inadequate,” he said.

Ellen Wolfe of West Tisbury, and a member of the MV Peace Council, saw the email announcement for the rally the morning of the event, and thought, “This one’s important, there are a lot of important ones right now.” She fears that “as a country, our democracy is in trouble.” Among other participants were Toni Kauffman of Oak Bluffs, the Rev. Stephen Harding from the Grace Episcopal Church, and Joe Finocchio and his wife Cynthia Redshaw, who heard about the event from Laskowski. Also in attendance was Lorna Andrade, a member of the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. Andrade, who is described as a force by those who know her, said, ”You know what, if our congressmen and all our elected officials do not listen to us, then we vote them out of office.” 

As Islanders and visitors alike know, Five Corners is a busy place. It has been the site of many stand-outs and rallies over the years for important causes like nuclear disarmament, healthcare, civil rights, climate change, and abortion rights, to name a few.

On Saturday, passersby both on foot and in vehicles were as impassioned as the participants holding signs themselves, and could be heard yelling, “Thank you for doing this,” “Way to go,” “I agree, I agree!” As the vehicles passed by and the hoots, hollers, and honks filled the air, Sarah Nevin said, “This corner has been very useful.”


  1. It would be so much more helpful if they were fighting for congress to focus on helping those with mental health issues. Our country has failed those who need help. How often are these mass killings done by people of sane mind?? Never. Guns only kill when they are in the hands of mentally disturbed people.

    • John Axel, guns also kill when they are in the hands of soldiers, law enforcement officers, and hunters, among others. That’s what guns are *for*. I tend to agree that anyone who commits a mass shooting is by definition “mentally disturbed,” but how helpful is this? Does it help us identify potential mass shooters before they kill? For one thing, mental health services in this country are woefully inadequate, and for another, the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent.

      I’ve come to believe that our understanding of “mentally disturbed” is inadequate. I’d like to extend it to include the gun lobby and their hardcore supporters in Congress and various state legislatures. In the face of these mass shootings and other gun violence, they continue to resist even modest, commonsense measures like background checks while raking in their profits. It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Sanity, conversely, might be the willingness to try something else.

    • Wrong. This attitude puts a stigma on the mentally ill and that’s not fair. There are plenty of mentally ill people who, despite not getting the help they need, never act out with violence. Comments like this are part of the reason those with mental health issues aren’t getting the help they need, because they are afraid to come forward. Some people really are evil, greedy, selfish, ignorant etc. Others are just not getting a different kind of help they need- financial, food, etc. Everyone has a breaking point, no matter how sound of mind they are. Anyone can be pushed to extremes under the right circumstances. Let’s not pretend this is a mental health issue. It’s so much more than that. This is a culture issue. Go all the way back to when the white man invaded this land. Look what happened to the Natives. Look what happened to the Blacks. Read the detailed accounts of what was done to them, often in the name of God. What cultures were responsible for that violence? The issue is much, much deeper than most are willing to admit.

    • John– I agree with you about mental health issues.
      I googled “congressional bills to address mental health issues.”
      The results do not seem to indicate republicans are the champions of mental health issues.
      Democrats are introducing mental health related bills at a rate of about 4 times that of republicans

      The affordable care act– AKA. “Obamacare” provided for one of the largest expansions of mental health care in history.
      Why were republicans so against it ?

      And let me ask–
      Do you think someone who believes George Soros is setting fires in Ca. with lasers from space has any mental health issues ?
      Do you think that anyone who believes Hillary Clinton was running a murderous cannibalistic satanic pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor has mental health issues?
      How about denying a free and fair election based on no evidence whatsoever?
      No children died at Sandy Hook elementary school?
      Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun ? — There were 19 heavily armed police officers inside the Uvalde school for nearly an hour, but were afraid to confront one mentally deranged individual who had an ar-15. —
      Do you think they would have stood outside that door for that long if there was a nut with a knife inside a classroom?
      The pro gun lobby has been telling us for years that the problem is “mental health” but they block every attempt to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
      Who’s mentally ill here ?
      Come on John..

    • As long as “helping those with mental health issues” includes all who espouse this malevolent red herring, I’m all for it.

    • The mental issue is some people wanting to own guns designed specifically to kill people at at close to near range.
      People who have never eaten what they have killed.
      The only reason they have to own a gun is to kill people.

  2. Guns don’t fire themselves. Guns don’t kill people, other people do. It’s a mental health issue not a gun issue. I know severalresponsible gun owners who carry as a means to protect themselves and their family from those who are dangerous. Personally, I feel safer when I am with them. Gun ownership should be regulated just the same as motor vehicles, but should not be taken away from responsible citizens of sound mind and body. Stop blaming the guns, start blaming those that fire them irresponsibility and dangerously.

    • Start blaming the gun laws that allow 18 year olds to buy guns specifically designed and marketed to kill human beings.

  3. When is this same group going to march in front of the Tisbury Police Station and demand they investigate the “missing” Glock revolver?
    There are no gun issues closer to our home than this one.

  4. Mike– I agree with you. 100 % — guns alone are not the issue.
    But mental health alone is also not the issue.

    In the United states, in the 1940’s most Americans could walk into their local hardware store and buy a few sticks of dynamite. The federal government severely tightened regulations on the sale of dynamite to the general public after ww II  

    So we both agree that there are plenty of mentally ill people out there with violent intent. 
    I haven’t heard of any mass killings with dynamite recently.
    It is possible you could kill more people in 5 minutes with dynamite than an ar 15.
    So why are their so few deaths that involve dynamite ?
    Think about it…

    And please– Kansas city was not dynamite
    Kansas city actually showed the effectiveness of regulating dangerous products.

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