My name is Kaylee Tyner and I’m a senior at Columbine High School. My classmates and I have grown up with the trauma of what happened at my school 20 years ago on April 20, 1999. Just yesterday, my school was threatened. Columbine High School was among 20 local schools that went into lockdown after a suspect made threats of gun violence.
My name is Robert Schentrup, and sadly, there’s one reason you’ll recognize that name. I’m a gun violence survivor. During the mass shooting that took place on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, my sister Carmen was murdered. Since then, I’ve traveled the country working to end gun violence with Brady’s youth initiative, Team ENOUGH.
Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins, and other members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today to share my experience and perspectives on gun violence in America. My name is Aalayah Eastmond. I am a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
While it is an honor to be before you today, it is only because horrific events have compelled me. Next Thursday will mark exactly one year from the day that 17 of my fellow schoolmates and educators were shot and killed, 17 more injured. Thousands more -- like me -- were fortunate to walk away with our lives that day but we will never be free of the terror. Some will carry visible scars, but all of us were scarred emotionally, for the rest of our lives.
I was in my 4th period Holocaust history class. We were presenting our projects on hate groups found on college campuses. I could never have imagined my group partner Nicholas Dworet would’ve saved my life in moments to come. As we sat at our desks working on our computers after presenting our projects, we began to hear loud pops. When the gunman shot into our classroom, Nicholas Dworet was in front of me. The gunman’s bullets hit and killed him and Helena Ramsay. As Nicholas fell, I matched his every movement and hid beneath his lifeless body as bullets riddled my classmates. I thought I was going to die. As I layed there, I begged God to please make it fast.
When the shooter moved to another classroom, I rolled Nicholas off of me and placed his head on his arm so it wouldn't be touching the cold ground. My classmates pulled me behind a filing cabinet where I called my mom and my dad and said what I thought would be my last goodbyes. I told them how much I loved them, and asked that they please tell my brothers the same. I was so petrified that I began hyperventilating. My classmates had to cover my face so the shooter wouldn’t hear my cries and come back. I will never forget that day. What I saw. What I did. What I experienced. What happened to my classmates. I will never forget Nicholas Dworet who, in his death, protected me. He saved my life.
The effects of this shooting did not end on February 14th. Days later, our family experienced another tragedy: the stress from the shooting had taken such a toll on my mother’s body that she experienced a miscarriage. It is another painful, and permanent, reminder of that day that my family will endure the rest of our lives.
Gun violence ends thousands of American lives every year -- it is a pervasive problem that extends well beyond high profile school shootings. My family knew this pain long before Parkland. Fifteen years ago, in Brooklyn, NY, my uncle Patrick Edwards was shot in the back and killed. He was just 18 and had his whole life ahead of him. I am asking you to give my generation the chance that he never had.
Minority communities bear the heaviest burden of gun violence in this country. We know this as fact. Just a few weeks ago, a report was released showing that the life expectancy for African American men was reduced by four years, on average, because of gun violence. But this report didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. We have communities in this country where gun violence is an everyday occurrence, and the vast majority of those communities are majority minority. We have to do something to stop the gun violence that has become an every day threat in those communities, including stopping the supply of crime guns and we must ensure that there is comprehensive criminal justice reform to address structural inequalities in the system. I am here to tell you a simple truth.
Our gun violence is now such an epidemic that anyone, anywhere, at any time can be affected. Rich or poor, white or black, young or old. All Americans are at risk, and that is an America in which none of us can or should take pride.
Since that horrible day, my classmates and I have been working tirelessly in support of sensible gun laws. I chose to get involved with the Brady Campaign’s Team ENOUGH, a group of young people dedicated to strengthening our nation’s gun laws and engaging in communities most impacted by everyday gun violence. I am just one of hundreds of thousands of students that came out at the March for Our Lives demanding change. We stand on the shoulders of local organizations and people that have been working on change for decades. We are all working to make sure our stories are told and our voices are heard on the most important issue facing our generation. Our demand for sensible reforms crosses party lines, geographies, social classes, and racial divides. We are the generation that will end gun violence.
I implore you and your colleagues to pass legislation that will make us all safer by strengthening our nation’s gun laws. We must do all we can to avoid the tragedies we see every day in our nation due to gun violence.
Today in America, anyone can go on the internet, answer an ad, or go to a gun show and buy a gun with no background check required. This makes absolutely no sense. I urge you to expand Brady background checks by voting for H.R. 8, legislation requiring background checks for virtually every gun transaction. I know from working with the Brady Campaign that the original background check law passed with bipartisan support. This common sense measure should enjoy similar support from every one of you on this Committee, since well over 90 percent of the public supports taking this action!
The Protection in Lawful Commerce at Arms Act (PLCAA) contributes to gun violence by providing the gun industry with special protections at the expense of victims of gun violence. PLCAA removes incentives for the gun industry to adopt life-saving business practices and instead provides legal cover to irresponsible gun dealers who supply the criminal gun market. This small minority of gun dealers profits from irresponsible and often dangerous business practices with no accountability to their victims. Congress must take immediate action to repeal PLCAA.
Extreme Risk Laws, already passed in several states, help protect people in crisis that pose a danger to themselves or others. These laws allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from people in crisis while also protecting their rights through due process in courts. Congress should pass legislation incentivizing more states to pass these life saving laws and providing funds for implementation and education.
Assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines belong on the battlefield, not in our communities. Unfortunately, my classmates and I have seen first-hand the massive carnage that an assault weapon is uniquely capable of causing. Congress should immediately re-institute the assault weapons ban.
Every year thousands of people deemed by law to be too dangerous to access guns get them because of what has become known as the Charleston loophole. Under federal law, if a background check isn’t completed in three days, a dealer can legally sell the gun. 90 percent of federal background checks take only a few minutes, but in thousands of cases three days is not enough time to complete a check, as was the case in the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, who took nine innocent lives in the deadly church shooting, was sold a gun before law enforcement had time to fully research his disqualifying records. Many individuals who are sold guns before checks are completed are criminals or domestic abusers, and once we figure out guns were sold to these unlawful purchasers, we have to send law enforcement out to get the guns back, which puts them in harm’s way. We need to give law enforcement enough time to finish the background check before someone can buy a gun.
Gun violence affects all American communities, but not always equally or in the same way. I especially urge you to address the concerns of those living in our black and brown communities who are disproportionately affected by gun violence.
Rather than listen to special interests, I ask you to listen to the nation’s young people and the overwhelming majority of Americans, who have had enough. We have had enough of the gun violence rampant in our schools, in our movie theaters, our places of worship, in nightclubs and restaurants, on our streets, and in our communities. Enough. We have all had enough. I hope you have had enough too and use the power the people have vested in you to do what is right. We are all depending on you. We the people, our lives depend on you. It is in your hands.
We certainly have much to be thankful for this year. Our children, our families. Our remarkable team here at Brady, working day in and day out because they believe in our mission and know they’re making a difference.
But we also know that for far too many Americans, this Thanksgiving will be a difficult one. Some will be amongst the 342 people shot every day in America, recovering from their injuries and piecing their lives back together. Some will have escaped being shot themselves, still struggling with survivors’ guilt and wondering why they should be so lucky. And far too many families will be sitting down to a table missing a loved one who was one of the 96 people shot and killed in our country every day.
It’s for these families that we at the Brady Campaign do what we do each and every day. It’s why we fight for common sense solutions to end gun violence, steps supported by the vast majority of Americans that have yet to be put into action by our elected officials. It’s why we work in communities across the country to build trusting relationships to tackle the gun violence they deal with every single day. It’s why we collaborate with gun owners, veterans, and pediatricians to end family fire in our country, working to put an end to the eight children and teens unintentionally injured or killed every day by an improperly stored gun.
And so, we are grateful most of all to you, our tremendous supporters. None of our work would be possible without your generous support. From the hours you spent making phone calls and knocking on doors to ensure a pro-gun safety Congress, to the donation you made to help us bring students from Florida to Washington for the March for Our Lives, to the petition you shared with your social media networks to spread the word about our latest efforts, we couldn’t do any of this without you.
We hope that you and your family have a warm and peaceful Thanksgiving. And for those with an empty seat at their table, we promise you that we will continue to press on for you and your loved ones, so that no family is left to feel the pain of a bullet. May we all look forward to the day when we can all be thankful to have our health, our friends and family, and the peace of a violence-free community at last.
Post by: Avery Gardiner & Kris Brown, Co-Presidents, Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence
As the holiday season approaches, and homes begin to fill with family and friends from near and far, it’s important to be mindful and take precautions to keep your home safe. With 8 children and teens injured or killed each day as a result of Family Fire, a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun, it’s critical to remember and practice safe storage practices. Below are some tips for preparing your home this holiday season which can help put an end to Family Fire.
Always practice safe storage, especially with guests in town.
Always store guns securely and out of children’s reach. From gun locks to safes, there’s a range of effective solutions best suited for both gun and home. Since holidays tend to bring more children into the home, consider storing your ammunition separately from the gun, which can reduce the risk of family fire by up to 61%. Don’t be afraid to remind your loved ones to practice safe storage as well.
Remember, holidays aren’t easy for everyone. Some loved ones may be struggling.
Holidays can bring abundant cheer, but can also be a difficult time for those suffering from a recent loss, depression or other mental health issues. If you feel a family member may pose a danger to themselves or others, consider removing guns from the home and storing them safely off premise.
Conversations around gun safety can often take a political and divisive turn, but they don’t have to! Here are some tips on how to best navigate this type of conversation:
- Establish common ground: both gun owners and non-gun owners can be gun violence prevention supporters and agree that safe storage is a critical aspect of responsible gun ownership. Consider beginning the conversation by asking your loved ones if they are firearm owners, and if so, what safe storage methods they practice.
- Practice active listening: in order to have an effective conversation, you’ll need to practice active listening. While someone else is speaking, try to not focus on preparing your next response, but instead concentrate on what the other person is saying so you can better understand their point of view. Use active listening techniques such as making eye contact with the speaker, paraphrasing what they’ve said and asking follow up questions. These techniques let the other person know that you are fully engaged in the conversation and committed to hearing their opinion.
- Be inclusive of others: try to not let a few select people dominate the conversation. Be inclusive and let each person present have a chance to weigh in on the subject.
- Avoid getting angry: difficult conversations can often times become very emotional. Avoid derailing the conversation by making accusations or judgments of others, and instead remain empathetic and open-minded. If you do get upset, acknowledge your feelings to the group and explain why you feel as you do.
- Know when to wrap it up: if tensions start to rise, or interest in the topic begins to wane, it’s time to wrap things up. Try to end the conversation on a positive note by summarizing the common ground you’ve achieved and what positive actions can be taken next.
Continue the conversation after the holidays and talk with your community about the importance of gun safety.
Having regular conversations about gun safety with those close to you reduces the chance of family fire incidents. If you’re a gun owner, help put an end to family fire by educating friends, family, and members of your community on responsible gun ownership. Visit https://endfamilyfire.org/ to learn how you can help put an end to Family Fire.
Post by: Meagan Hutcheon, Social Change Program Manager, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
March. Rally. Educate. Debate. Register. Vote. It’s been a busy year and that doesn’t even include all of the studying, testing, and college applications.
But we’ve done it because we have no choice. For more than a generation, the NRA has run roughshod over the will of the American public and it has been left to us to right this wrong.
I had just finished up my first week working at Brady. I was out with new friends, celebrating a summer night in DC on a rooftop somewhere downtown. We were dressed like the young professionals we aspired to be, gossiping about our respective office drama and politics, making plans for the weeks to come, and brushing off any fears that our upcoming senior years would be anything but an exhilarating end to our college years akin to the movies. We were planning for a future we assumed was an absolute.
2:21 We heard a round of extremely loud pops. We had no idea what it was or where it was coming from. The class was in complete silence and we all stared at each other in immediate fear. Within a second we heard it again. We all immediately ran.
The Team Enough Executive Council has made it a priority to work to elect local and national representatives who are gun safety champions. Team Enough members all over the country have been involved in getting out the vote and educating voters about gun violence issues, often from a very personal perspective.
It didn’t occur to me then that our representatives and senators are there to serve us - their constituency, and especially their young constituency. But it did occur to me when I learned that Representative Kilmer, someone who I voted for in my first election, hadn’t yet put his name on a bill of importance to the gun violence prevention movement.
The 11th-hour decision will protect innocent lives across the United States and worldwide.
Despite a federal court ordering blueprints for 3D-printed guns be removed from the internet, a group of extremist activists have taken it upon themselves to post the instructions. These blueprints will allow anyone, anywhere- no matter how dangerous - to download and print 3D, untraceable guns.
A federal court issued a temporary restraining order blocking a crypto-anarchist from publishing blueprints for functional 3D printed guns. Cody Wilson and his company, Defense Distributed, had reached a settlement with the Justice Department to publish the plans August 1, to the dismay of gun violence prevention advocates.
A recent analysis shows that advocates like Team Enough are closing the “participation gap” to make sure that lawmakers, agencies and others know that advocates are serious about making their voices heard to stop gun violence.
Team Enough recently scored everyone in the U.S. Congress based on their support or lack thereof for bills that would require universal background checks for every gun sale, ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, and establish “extreme risk” laws that help keep guns temporarily away from someone who is a threat to themselves or others.
Thank you to Sherman and Gutierrez for signing on in July to cosponsor H.R. 2598, a life-saving bill that would help families and law enforcement temporarily remove guns from a situation where someone is in crisis. Earlier the representatives confirmed their support of bills that would ban assault weapons and expand background checks.
These two members of Congress have moved from earning incomplete grades to passing ones—how do your representatives score? So far, only 12 senators and 24 representatives have earned passing grades. Look up their grades on gun reform now, and let them know that you support common-sense gun reform.