101 California Shooting: 20 Years Later

A look back at the 1993 shootings at 101 California Street in San Francisco and how the event has influenced the debate on gun control

Twenty years ago, San Francisco experienced its worst mass shooting in the city's history.

Gunman Gian Luigi Ferri, armed with rapid fire weapons, made his way through the Petit and Martin Law Offices on the 34th floor of an office building at 101 California Street.

Before shooting and killing himself, he killed eight people and wounded six others.

The tragic events of July 1, 1993 not only altered the courses of many lives, but also sparked gun control debates on a national level.

Steve Sposato lost his wife, Jody, in the shooting, leaving him to raise their 10-month-old daughter, Meghan, alone.

Sposato said he was shocked when he heard the shooter used 32-round clips in the attack.

“He had these assault weapons that could fire three to four shots a second with these hellfire triggers, almost like an automatic,” Sposato said in a recent interview, adding he was surprised to learn that such weapons were legal.

In the weeks after the tragedy, Sposoto rallied with other victims’ families and Sen. Dianne Feinstein to raise the issue of gun control in the national realm.

Sposato testified before Congress with his daughter strapped in a carrier on his back – an illustration of how the shooting had dramatically changed his life.

The group’s activism eventually led to the historic assault weapons ban signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton.

Carol Kingsley, whose husband, Jack, died in the 101 California shooting, also became an advocate of gun control because of that fateful day.

Today, Kingsley said while she takes pride in the fact that California has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, she is still deeply troubled by incidents like the Newtown, Connecticut shooting.

“It’s that seeing other folks continue to go through it that brings up the anger and the frustration and the determination and the voice,” Kingsley said.

Though the assault weapons ban is long-expired and Congress recently rejected a new round of gun control laws in April, Kingsley and Sposato are still using their voices to create change yet again.

Sposato points out that he is not anti-guns, but believes stricter laws should be in place when it comes to ownership.

"Where I draw the line is saying that anybody, regardless of their mental state, can circumvent the system and buy a firearm. I have a problem with that and I think most Americans do,” Sposato said. “I don’t think anyone needs more than a 10-round clip.”

It seems he is not alone. According to a Pew Research poll in May, 81-percent of Americans polled supported background checks for gun owners.

Both Sposato and Kingsley said they will continue their advocacy efforts this week.

Along with Sen. Feinstein, they marked the 20th anniversary of the 101 California shooting with a fundraiser for the Law Center of San Francisco Friday night.

The organization is dedicated to promoting what they describe as responsible gun laws.

Sposato and Kinglsey’s efforts serve as a plea that no children, like now 20-year-old Meghan or Kingsley’s son, Zach, have to grow up without a parent.

“As a nation, I hope that 20 years from now we can look back and see significant shifts,” Kingsley said.

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