Journey from victim to activist a reluctant one for Christina-Taylor's mom

Killings that followed Jan. 8 changed Green family
2013-04-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-30T17:16:46Z Journey from victim to activist a reluctant one for Christina-Taylor's momStephanie Innes Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

After her fearless, joyful 9-year-old daughter was shot dead on Jan. 8, 2011, Roxanna Green did not want to talk about guns, let alone get involved in advocacy for stricter gun laws.

"I didn't want my daughter associated with guns," she said. "I wanted her remembered for the good and happy parts of her life. That's what I wanted to remember, too."

But a series of shootings after the Tucson massacre changed everything for Green and her family, who are gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment.

"I could not be silent anymore," she said. "I wasn't ready. I was overwhelmed. But I couldn't let people die in vain."

Green has become a public face in a national effort to curb gun violence through stricter laws. She travels the country speaking out for what she calls "common-sense" regulations on firearms. She meets with national leaders, is featured in a public-service announcement and often makes media appearances on the subject.

Her activism began after the Aurora, Colo., movie-theater shootings that killed 12 people on July 20, 2012. That tragedy occurred during a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," the new Batman movie. The Greens were in New York City at the time, and Green's son, Dallas, had been asking to see the film.

"There were kids in that theater," she said. "I was so upset and heartbroken again."

The mass shootings continued - three people killed near Texas A&M University, then six killed at a Wisconsin Sikh Temple.

The year Christina-Taylor died, eight other children younger than 18 were murdered in Pima County - six by gunfire. Six more were killed with firearms in 2012.

Finding a new purpose

Christina-Taylor Green was the youngest of the six people shot to death Jan. 8.

The third-grader was waiting in line to meet then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was shot through the brain, and 12 others were injured that day.

After Christina-Taylor's death, Roxanna Green devoted herself to promoting her daughter's values. She created the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation, which provides grants to benefit children in need. The foundation has raised more than $500,000, donated whiteboards and computers, provided funding for a playground, and given grants to groups that work with local children.

With a green-and-blue butterfly drawn by Christina-Taylor as its logo, the foundation focuses on the positive.

Christina-Taylor had been involved with Kids Helping Kids, which does youth-led community-service projects. The self-assured, brown-eyed girl volunteered at a soup kitchen shortly before she died and was eager to do more.

The foundation quickly gained momentum, and Green was overwhelmed with work. She was also finishing a book about her daughter, "As Good As She Imagined." It came out in January 2012, and Green embarked on a book tour and months of speaking engagements, all while leading the foundation. She also had two hip replacements that required two separate hospitalizations.

That summer she thought maybe she'd have some downtime. She was exhausted.

"Certainly, I was concerned about how much she was taking on," Green's close friend Katy Martin said. "Roxanna has always been a passionate, outspoken person and has always felt that gun regulation was something that had to be addressed. But she did not want her daughter's legacy co-mingled with guns, so she kept her ideals concerning them private."

But then, Aurora.

Stepping up

Green began working on a campaign called "Demand a Plan" with Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

"I try not to say gun control. It's about a gun-violence protection plan. It's not about taking guns away," she said.

One of the first things she did was go to Washington D.C., where she sat next to Attorney General Eric Holder and told him in a quiet but even voice how it feels to lose a child to a gun.

"I am so grateful she has been brave enough to step up," said Pam Simon, a former Giffords aide who was shot in the chest on Jan. 8. "In a public tragedy, people expect things out of you a lot of times. People try to get at you for their own good. Sometimes it's well meaning, but self-serving. She's had to maintain grace in a very public eye."

Simon is on the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation board and is also a part of Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

"Roxanna is a woman of deep faith. She has a strong family life. She and John are just an incredible couple," Simon said. "She is really amazing at taking the experience of her grief and not only using her voice for bigger issues but also using her experience to encourage and comfort people going through the same thing."

On Dec. 14, Green was working at home when she received a text about another shooting. Twenty-six people had been shot dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and a staggering 20 were children even younger than Christina-Taylor.

Three days later, Green was in Newtown.

"I wanted it to be a dream where I'd pinch myself and wake up, just like I'd wanted at the hospital on Jan. 8," she said. "I felt goosebumps when we turned on the exit for Newtown. It is a beautiful Norman Rockwell painting of a town where innocent children were slaughtered."

In Newtown, Green met with first responders.

"God bless them," she said. "I saw so much pain in their faces."

In January, she returned to Newtown and gave out copper angel ornaments from the Christina-Taylor Green Foundation. She wears a pin that says, "Sandy Hook Promise."

"It's a nonpartisan promise to make change," she said.

"We are not defeated"

Green has spent time with people who lost relatives in the Aurora shooting, the Wisconsin Sikh temple massacre and the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.

She's befriended Erica Lafferty, the daughter of Sandy Hook principal and shooting victim Dawn Hochsprung, and Carlee Soto, whose sister, teacher Victoria Soto, was killed that day.

On April 17, Green was in D.C. to attend a U.S. Senate vote on changes to current gun laws.

Proposed legislation would have limited ammunition in magazines to 10 rounds, banned assault rifles and expanded background checks for commercial gun sales. The measures failed, even expanded background checks - the measure advocates against gun violence had been most hopeful would pass.

It is particularly important to Green to legislate limits on bullets allowed in a gun ammunition magazine. Evidence indicates Christina-Taylor was killed by the thirteenth or fourteenth round of a 30-round magazine. A limit on high-capacity magazines may have spared her life.

Green is careful to keep her activism separate from the foundation, which is not political. But several people have criticized her work on firearms violence through public Facebook pages she keeps for the foundation and for her book. The messages are emotional, and a few have been abusive.

Green knows she is involved in a deeply controversial issue.

"It's not going to be overnight. These things take time. We are not defeated," she said.

Green still doesn't want her daughter to be associated with a gun, and she has never acknowledged Christina-Taylor's killer. Her family did not attend any hearings in the case.

Yet, she's resolute that senseless shootings end. She must spare other parents from a pain that never goes away.

"I'll always have a hole in my heart," she said. "This is one that time will not heal."

On Line

Applications for grant money from the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation are due May 3. For information: www. christina-taylorgreen.org/

"I am so grateful she has been brave enough to step up. In a public tragedy, people expect things out of you a lot of times. People try to get at you for their own good. Sometimes it's well meaning but self-serving. She's had to maintain grace in a very public eye."

Pam Simon, a former Giffords aide

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