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Father of slain UCSB student reflects on somber anniversary, changes to gun laws

Posted at 5:00 PM, May 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-23 21:21:22-04

The watch on Richard Martinez’s wrist is at a standstill.

“This is the watch I gave him. This is the watch he was wearing when he died,” Martinez said.

Five years ago, he had his last conversation with his son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez.

“He was such a good-natured kid,” Martinez said. “He enjoyed UCSB, he loved school, he loved Isla Vista.”

The San Luis Obispo High School graduate was one of six UC Santa Barbara students killed in a rampage by a Santa Barbara City College student on May 23, 2014.

Chris went to the Isla Vista Deli Mart after getting off the phone with his dad. Moments later, he was killed.

“The last time I saw Chris was at the morgue there in Goleta,” Martinez said. “I remember leaving that room and one of the sheriff’s deputies gave us a small bag. In the bag was his watch.”

From that time forward, Richard Martinez became a national face for gun reform.

Martinez was seen by millions around the world speaking to the press and the public shortly after saying goodbye to his son in 2014.

“Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA,” Martinez said in a 2014 press conference. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live?”

Now a spokesman for the national non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety, Martinez is wasting no time in demanding change.

“Four months after Isla Vista, the governor in California signed a red-flag law,” he said.

That law allows family and law enforcement to present evidence to a judge that someone is a danger to themselves and/or others. If the claims are ruled as valid, that person’s guns will be confiscated.

Today, 14 states and Washington, D.C. have red-flag laws in place.

After the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, states across the country, including 14 with Republican leadership, enacted 50 new laws restricting access to guns.

“The momentum is with us. The gun lobby has never been weaker,” Martinez said. “People are tired of this.”

In February, the House of Representatives passed the first significant gun control bill in 25 years. It requires background checks for all gun purchases, including online and at gun shows.

“When the political will is there to get something done, this country can do it,” Martinez said.

While Martinez says there isn’t a panacea to gun violence, he argues implementing safety measures will chip away at the problem and ultimately save lives so others can have more time together.

“It’s set at 9:27 p.m. which is the time that he was shot,” Martinez said looking at his son’s watch. “I wear it every day.”

While the Isla Vista community mourns five years since the massacre, the fifth annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day is coming up on June 7.