Ian Johnstone never knew that his tragic past would create a bridge that would bring community members and gun owners together in peaceful efforts to fight against gun violence in their communities.
Just four and a half years after his move to San Francisco to begin his company Blissmo, an e-commerce platform aimed at promoting organic & sustainable CPG products, Johnstone , 31, started a organization with friend , Eric King, Ph.D. in planetary physics and a Berkeley researcher, that would partner with local government to take the issue of gun violence into their own hands, empowering those in the streets of San Francisco and other major cities to remove guns from their communities .
Johnstone’s involvement with gun violence began at the tender age of 10 when his father was shot in the back by a 16 year old, during an attempted robbery in San Francisco on California Street. His father was instantly paralyzed, his eternal organs were damaged, and he died a month later.
“We can’t expect a 16 year old to make good decisions because they are kids, but I think we can restrict their access to fire arms so that when they make bad decisions there isn’t the same terrible ramifications,” said Johnstone.
Johnstone did just that when he decided to take his experience and pain and turn it into a passion that would tackle gun violence and promote prevention, hoping to transform communities.
“The idea for Gun by Gun stems from that frustration and wanting to find another outlet another way to do something about the issue. We had the idea, and it was meant to just be a test to see if it worked” said Johnstone.
Johnstone and King founded Gun by Gun in July and immediately began a crowd funding campaign that raised $ 20,000,with over 300 individual donors. The organization partnered with District 9 Supervisor David Campos and the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) to launch its first buyback event in the Mission on Aug., 8.
“I know there was a lot of gun violence in the mission and one of the considerations for the buyback was finding an area that was a neutral gang territory, said Johnstone.
“We wanted to raise money for gun buyback programs but we also wanted to be able to provide people an outlet to do something about guns in their community, and I think that’s kind of a frustration especially with how difficult it is to get anything meaningful through congress. I think this was a way for individuals to have a real and tangible impact on the issue of guns.”
The event took place on the parking lot of U.S Bank on 22nd and Capp street, no questions were asked ,and participants received $100 in exchange for unloaded guns and $200 for assault weapons.
The organization’s crowd funding efforts proved to be a success when the event rallied in 157 guns, including four assault weapons, which showed the power in communal reformation.
“We can use crowd funding to model to grow this community of people that care about this issue,” said Johnstone.
Johnstone was honored for his efforts at the city council meeting Oct. 1 by Supervisor David Campos for his dedication to reducing gun violence around the city, and has recently started to prepare for the next campaign in Nov. that will last a month and be launched in San Jose and the Bayview District.
“In order to really make change on the issue there needs to be a broader audience. We can’t wait until we are all victims of gun violence to do something about it,”said Johnstone.