A Mass Shooting Survivor Pushes For Gun Control in Wake of Colorado Tragedy

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The mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado last Friday hit especially close to home for me. In 1999, I was shot when an armed gunman walked into a Jewish Community Center day camp near Los Angeles California. There were five of us wounded and one who was killed. At the time, this was considered a mass shooting. It is crazy that now this is looked at as a small amount of victims. In the thirteen years since I was shot, mass shootings have not stopped, but become frighteningly more common.


Gun and handcuffs, Credit Image: Shutterstock


I was fortunate enough to survive the JCC shooting. But I have not forgotten. For the past 13 years, I have worked with the Brady Campaign, Women Against Gun Violence, and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to speak out and tell my story in an effort to try and prevent what happened to me from happening to others. It has been a goal since the day after I was shot to help create some common sense gun legislation. A few years ago, I even organized a 5K race in Los Angeles to raise money for victims of gun violence. I am currently the San Francisco chapter leader for the Brady Campaign. I wish that I could say that the work gun control advocates have done could have prevented a tragedy like Aurora from happening, but unfortunately our work is far from over.

I was 16 years old when I was shot, an age that can be extremely tough for an average girl. Add in an attempted murder, and it's a recipe for a disaster. It took a while for the post traumatic stress to play out in my life. When I attempted to go away to college, the bullets really did their damage. I suffered a breakdown and even stopped eating for a few months while my family watched in horror at the real affects a trauma can have on a young person.I had to drop out of college until I could really turn my life around, and I learned to understand how to gain control of my life. I told myself that the man who tried to kill me failed and I would not let him ruin any more of it. To this day, however, I still suffer from PTSD -- and events like Friday’s shooting bring me right back to the JCC again. The thought of looking for the emergency exit, the sounds of the shots firing, the helicopters above and the screams all come flooding back in an instance. And there I am, sixteen again, laying in a pool of blood playing dead in hopes that he wouldn't come and find me to finish me off.

In a strange twist of fate, this latest mass shooting is again connected to my life. Until very recently, the gunman, James Holmes, was a student at the University of Colorado, Denverwhere my sister is an administrator in the M.D.-Ph.D. program. Many of her students may have known him and some may have even been working in the hospital, treating the shooting victims. The theater is not far from my sister’s office and knowing this man was on the same campus as my young nephew (who is in day care) is terrifying. My brother-in-law, a math teacher at a school in Denver, had two students in the theater that night. I am relieved to know they are safe, but unfortunately know all too well the trauma they are going to face for the rest of their lives.

Tragedies like this will continue to repeat with the same senseless horror unless our political leaders wake up and take action. We know all too well the catastrophic damage gun violence can have on an individual, a family, and a community. Unfortunately, Colorado has seen this terror before, and in the 13 years since the tragedy at Columbine High School, what have we learned?

Gun-rights advocates say we should become an armed society. In March, the University of Colorado even started allowing guns on campus (a rule that my sister is actively engaged in trying to overturn); many are convinced that this would make for a better society. I would like to offer a counter argument to this disturbing idea.

First and foremost, many of these massacres take place on school campuses, where students should be focused on learning. Imagine the constant fear teachers, administrators and students would be living in if every person on campus were armed and could potentially shoot any visitors that come into the classroom just because they look suspicious or if they reach for a calculator in their pocket. Or what if a gun goes off because someone accidentally drops a backpack on the floor?

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