The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
When I heard the news that there was an active shooter in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, I was sitting in a hotel ballroom in Washington D.C. with almost 2,000 gun safety advocates at Gun Sense University 2019. Leaders from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Students Demand Action and the Everytown Survivor Network, and six million supporters are working diligently to reduce gun violence in our country.
For gun violence survivors, each mass shooting can be re-traumatizing. The news comes as a visceral wave that causes the breath to shorten, the body to shake and the brain to go numb. Suddenly, a survivor can feel like time has turned back to the moment they got the call that their loved one was dead from a bullet or the instant a gun was held to their head in a robbery or a bullet left them bleeding on the sidewalk.
When the news of the El Paso shooting was announced, a woman sat to my right wearing a button with the image of her son, a handsome young college-bound teen killed by a bullet. Across from me sat a teen who had witnessed fellow students being shot in Parkland. Throughout the afternoon, those attending the conference hugged and gave support to each other, then our sadness turned to anger and furious indignation.
That evening, a group of hundreds headed toward the White House where we were joined by student organizers and citizens who felt as angry and frustrated as we did.
The President was not in the White House when we called out the names of our loved ones taken by gun violence. However, we were all busy sending out pictures and statements via social media and, within minutes, millions of Americans heard our chants. The response was swift. The nation is fed up with our leaders who are afraid to pass laws that would keep us safer.
As the gun lobby falters, gun safety advocates are gaining traction in state houses and even in the House of Representatives. This spring, a gun sense majority in the House passed HR8, legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has thus far refused to bring the Senate version of this bill up for a vote. Every day that passes without stronger gun laws endangers the lives of our children and our loved ones. Background checks work. They are linked to effectively lowering rates of gun murders, gun suicides and gun trafficking in states that require them for all gun sales.
I was shot in the chest and arm on January 8, 2011 at a Congress On Your Corner event while on the staff of Congresswoman Giffords. I am dedicated to working to pass stronger gun safety laws because I do not want others to experience the horrific trauma that the families of the victims and survivors of the Tucson tragedy experienced.
Tucson came together to support each other and those of us directly affected by that mass shooting. Now, I call on this community to come together to demand that our Arizona senators pass essential gun violence prevention, including background checks on all gun sales and a strong Red Flag law. I feel the best way we can honor the victims of gun violence is through action. If you agree we need stronger gun laws, text CHECKS to 644-33. And if our leaders do not listen, we must vote them out!
Pam Simon is a survivor of the Jan. 8, 2011 Tucson shooting, a former teacher and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.