Those who survive mass shootings continue to suffer, as do their loved ones.

Those who survive mass shootings continue to suffer, as do their loved ones.

(Ivan Pierre Aguirre | The New York Times) Newly added crosses bear the names of those killed in Tuesday’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Thursday, May 26, 2022. Thursday was supposed to have it was the last day of school in Uvalde; instead, grieving family members are planning funerals after a mass shooting for which investigators were still searching for a motive.

In the wake of the shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and at a community grocery store in Buffalo, New York, we’re hearing reports of the number of people killed. But rarely do we learn about those who are injured but survive.

A survey of mass shootings in the US from 1982 to 2021 reports 952 deaths and 1,315 injuries. Along with these are the countless survivors of domestic abuse with guns, drive-by shootings, and family and friends reeling after the suicide of a loved one with a gun. There are so many survivors who suffer.

In 2019, I served as the Utah Community Outreach Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense. The Utah Moms chapter was founded by Kait Hinkley-Wood and Carolyn Tuft, the sister and mother of Kirsten, who was fatally shot on a mother-daughter trip to buy Valentines in Trolley Square in 2007.

Kait, Carolyn and their family lost more than Kirsten that day. Carolyn was an extremely fit and active single mother of four children who were teenagers and young adults. She was an artist and a successful small business owner. She survived three shotgun blasts that day, leaving her fighting for her life. Her health was seriously affected.

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The shooter did not take his life, but his health and his joy in creating art. He was unable to continue his business and lost his source of income and his home. Her children lost her vibrant and joyful mother as she struggled to get out of bed every day with a body full of lead shot and lead poisoning that is slowly killing her.

I speak for physical survivors of gun violence, like Carolyn, and for all those with mental trauma who bear witness to gun violence. I speak for the friends and families of those whose deaths by suicide are made easier by easy access to quick and deadly means: 54% of all gun violence. I am also writing on behalf of the law enforcement officers who witnessed this carnage, who are directly in danger and whose families may also be negatively affected.

There are three steps that we as Americans can take to reduce the pain and carnage that we are experiencing. The first step is to look within. While we were discussing this, one of my friends said, “Guns are simply an expression of violence that exists in the heart of an individual.” As individuals, let us fight current social trends to dehumanize or demonize each other. One of my spiritual leaders asks, “Can you see that everyone around you is a holy being?” As we fill our hearts and souls with compassion for one another, we have taken the first step.

Second, make efforts to connect with people outside of your current circle. bravest angels is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. Last month, co-founder David Lapp held workshops and meetups here in Utah, and our local red and blue leaders continue to host events to help us hear and understand each other. Candidates for House District 4 are holding Deliberative Braver Angels Town Halls where they discuss issues rationally and civically. Please take a moment to email Utah coordinators Erika Munson or Casey Jorgensen at [email protected] to schedule a workshop or ask how you can get involved.

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Finally, I encourage our federal delegation and my colleagues in the Utah Legislature to carefully review the data that clearly shows Utahns’ support for universal background checks. Utah can remain a “Second Amendment state” and reduce gun violence.

A 2019 Poll by Utah Policy and Y2 Analytics found that 88% of Utahns support or strongly support background check requirements for ALL firearms transactions, including sales online or at gun shows. Background checks simply allow the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to verify that a gun buyer does not have a criminal record and is not ineligible to purchase a gun. The NICS has conducted more than 300 million checks since its launch in 1998, which has generated more than three million refusals. The system does not collect or control information submitted by potential gun buyers.

A staggering 97% of Utahns ages 18-34 support such universal background checks. Let’s create the future that all Utahns, particularly our young people, desperately want by enacting this legislation now.

Rep. gay lynn benionD-Cottonwood Heights, represents the 46th House District in the Utah Legislature.