Alegria Zuniga said her first thought upon learning of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy was of her 5-year-old son.
Zuniga, 36, of Salinas, stood in the dark with nine others Saturday night at a candlelight vigil calling for an end to gun violence.
By her side was her son Ome, a kindergarten student at Lincoln School, and her 1-year-old daughter Ollin.
"I think it is time to have a critical discussion," she said. "This guy could not have done what he did without guns."
Twenty children — all first-graders — and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Friday by a 20-year-old gunman identified by Connecticut State Police as Adam Lanza.
Outside the Oasis Charter Public School on Westridge Parkway in Salinas on Saturday, people struggled with how to move forward.
"This was just a real shock," said Debbie Carter of Prunedale. "This one was just too much. Something has to be done."
Organizer Jane Meade-Roberts put together the vigil after getting an email from the website MoveOn.org that called for nationwide gathering to speak out against gun violence.
She said current gun laws and maybe even Lanza's schooling made Friday's slaughter possible.
"I think we really need to call attention to the fact that we made some mistakes along the way," she said.
Jeff Richman, a nurse at the charter school, played "What Child is This?" and Sting's "Fragile" on classical guitar as the group held candles.
"You tend to feel so powerless," he said. "I think this is a way to cope."
The group intended to gather around an 18-foot candle sculpture designed by Zuniga's husband, artist Martin Zuniga. Because of rain and cold, they huddled closely together under the awnings of the school.
Michael Roberts of Salinas read from a prepared statement.
"It's painful to think about what happened," he said. "Our hearts go out to the people of Newtown."