America, It's Time To Rise Up To Save Lives

Too many families like mine are left devastated by gun violence in America.
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Jane Dougherty

After the murder of my sister I got to work.

Seven weeks after my sister, Mary was gunned down in the lobby of her school, I went to a rally against gun violence. In the nearly five years since December 14, 2012 I have become a gun violence prevention activist working hard to honor my sister’s senseless death and to save lives. My sister, Mary Sherlach was the brave school psychologist that was murdered while trying to save her kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On that horrible Friday morning a disturbed young man blasted his way into my sister’s school killing her, five other educators and 20 first-graders as they were preparing for Christmas. There have been more mass shooting then I can count sense that horrific day. Too many names, families like mine left devastated by gun violence in America.

Like the rest of America I learned of the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas last Monday morning. My first thought was there will be fatalities. Families like mine receiving the devastating, life-altering news that a loved one has been murdered. That friends and family members will never come home again. More lives taken by bullets. These families will unknowingly and unwillingly join the sad club that no one wants to join. Tragically this club continues to grow, because a small loud vocal group of extremists love their guns more than they love their families. So I cry out to you America, it’s time to rise up and out shout the extremists to honor the 58 lives cut down at a music concert. It’s time to rise up and help me and thousands of other gun violence survivors, so that your family won’t receive the devastating phone call that a family member has been murdered by a disturbed man with a gun. Pick up your phone and call your U.S. Congressman and Senator and demand they fight for gun safety laws.

I spent the entire day on that tragic Monday consumed by the “largest mass shooting in modern history.” I can’t really explain it, but I can never turn away from the news of another mass shooting. I think because every life taken, to me, was Mary. As the news of the heinous act at the concert was announced my heart sank. First news reports were 50 dead, already mind-numbingly high. My thought went to more lives than the 49 at the Pulse Night club shooting. More than the 32 lives at Virginia Tech and more than the 26 lives at Sandy Hook. That is where many survivors’ minds will go. Later we hear 10 guns. More guns than at Aurora. More guns than at Sandy Hook. Later the death toll is updated to an ungraspable 58 and an unfathomable total of 42 guns, all legally purchased. As I absorb this latest shooting, I internalize every thing. I feel physically sick. My head hurts. I literally feel my energy draining from my body. I reach a point where I can’t take any more information and I crash. I have to sleep. This is not healthy, but it’s what happens to me on mass shooting days. I can’t control it. It just is. I call mass shooting days my “lost days.” Lost days happen way too frequently. Again America, I ask you to rise up and get involved in a gun violence prevention organization so you will never have to experience lost days too.

“Every single person that has been affected by gun violence relives the horror of their shooting every time another tragedy occurs, no matter the body count.”

I have lost track of how many lost days I have had over the course of the nearly five years since my sister’s murder. It’s been very difficult, but I have learned to live with them. I have no other choice, and I am sure other gun violence survivors have a similar experience. Every single person that has been affected by gun violence relives the horror of their shooting every time another tragedy occurs, no matter the body count. With every name, photo and story we are triggered back to our own personal nightmare, to our own hell. This is something the media doesn’t report on. The focus is always on “the shooter.” Reporters and journalists spend an enormous amount of time on every detail of the killer. The entire focus with every mass shooting is on why did the shooter do this? What was his motive? I understand why law enforcement has to investigate every aspect of the killer. But when the media spends days fixated on the killer, it boarders on glorification only to inspire and encourage other angry and disturbed dangerous gun nuts. If more stories were about us, the families that suffer, maybe more Americans would pay attention to the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. Maybe more Americans would be more horrified of the life long pain that survivors like me and many others are forced to live with. It never gets easier, you just have to live and bear it. It’s time for others to rise up and help fight at both the state and federal level to keep guns out of dangerous hands to save lives.

With every shooting the question that needs to be asked and focused on is how. How did the Las Vegas killer amass an arsenal of weapons and ammunition and no one noticed? How is the stock piling of guns possibly legal? Yes, I know every gun purchase was legal, but 42 guns? That is certainly not well-regulated! That is what I and hundreds of survivors have been working and fighting for. We want common sense gun laws like back ground checks on all gun sales that will help keep guns out of dangerous hands like the Las Vegas killer and the troubled young man that murdered my sister. But we are up against a very powerful gun lobby also known as the NRA. This organization is nothing more than an arms merchant peddling fear to sell guns. Dozens of gutless Republican legislators have accepted blood money from the NRA and continue to shill for an organization that puts profits over lives again and again. My sister’s life being one of them.

“Legislators continue to shill for an organization that puts profits over lives again and again. My sister’s life being one of them.”

Right now we are fighting against two very dangerous bills, one would allow anyone to conceal carry a gun anywhere no matter the state laws or regulations. Imagine the Las Vegas murderer carrying a gun around your town. He was a legal gun owner right up until he pulled the trigger on his rigged assault weapon. The other dangerous bill would make the sale of gun silencers legal. Gun silencers are one of the many deadly accessories gun manufacturers are trying to make legal, because their market is shrinking. Gun sales have dropped off sense the NRA spent 30 million to put a coward in the Oval Office. The reality is three percent of gun owners own 50 percent of all guns in this nation. Without Barack or Hillary as the boogie man or woman “coming for your guns,” Americans are not purchasing more guns out of fear. So in order to keep the money flowing gun manufacturers need to sell accessories like silencers. I hate to think what could have happened at Sandy Hook if my sister could not have heard the sound of the gun shots. The killer could have gone room to room slaughtering everyone in the school that morning. Imagine if along with the “bump fire stock” the Las Vegas killer had a silencer on his rigged weapon. Hundreds would have been murdered.

Every day sense the massacre I have woke up to the terrible sinking feeling that I felt for many months after my sister Mary was murdered, this time it was for the 58 murdered souls in Las Vegas and the hundreds wounded. America we have a gun violence epidemic and it’s not going to stop until we all are as outraged as the new families that have joined our sad club. When I think of what is a head for these families it breaks my heart but it also galvanizes me to continue the hard work to save lives and to honor my sister. America it is time to join me and rise up to save lives.

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