Our lives changed in an instant when a murderer shot and killed our 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Ghawi, in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater in 2012.
We are gun owners, and we were forced to confront the infuriating truth that our daughter's killer was able to build an arsenal for his slaughter simply by going online and ordering over 4,000 rounds of metal-piercing ammo, tear gas, body armor, and a 100-round magazine without even showing his driver's license. We believe the easy accessibility of firearms in America played a critical role in our daughter's death.
Jessi's death catapulted us into a new life as gun violence prevention activists. We travel the country with the mission of changing hearts and minds about our nation's gun laws. We sold all of our belongings, bought a travel trailer, and are touring America to speak out against the egregious laws that have been put into place by the corporate gun lobby. We are signing up victims/survivors who are willing to stand up to the NRA and its "guns everywhere" mantra.
We have learned that the gun lobby uses tactics which most decent Americans would agree are beyond the pale. The NRA and its minions use intimidation and even threats of death. One online troll for the NRA wrote to us, "Your daughter deserved to die because you are Gun Grabbers."
Whenever the "guns everywhere" zealots feel threatened, their modus operandi is to attack, and to attack in the most vicious way possible.
Again, we are gun owners; we believe in the Second Amendment right to own guns. We also believe, as Justice Scalia reasoned in the Heller decision, that the Second Amendment supports longstanding prohibitions on gun ownership by dangerous people, such as felons, fugitives, and the severely mentally ill; and that the Second Amendment also allows reasonable restrictions on carrying guns in sensitive places, such as schools and government buildings. The Supreme Court's Heller decision undercuts the fallacious "guns everywhere" mentality pushed by the corporate gun lobby.
But some trolls spoon-fed on NRA propaganda don't listen to reason, don't respect the Supreme Court's reasoning, and sometimes make up their own conspiracy theories and pretend they are factual.
For example, another "guns everywhere" troll told us to our faces -- outside the Colorado courtroom where our daughter's killer was on trial for murdering her and 11 others, and wounding many more -- that he believed Jessi never existed. Based on no evidence, he claimed that we were paid by the federal government to stage the "Aurora shooting" as an excuse to confiscate all guns.
And now I'm watching the same kind of conspiratorial nonsense and hyperbole flung at the filmmakers of Under the Gun, Katie Couric's documentary film about gun violence, directed by Stephanie Soechtig. We appear in this film and find it to be fair-minded overall and factual about our experience, despite the controversy over an eight-second pause after Couric asked whether a terrorist or felon should be able to own guns. She has since posted the transcript of that exchange with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, in which one man ignored whether a terrorist should be able to buy guns, but responded, "If you're a felon and you've done your time, you should have your rights."
In our opinion, that eight-second pause saved the dignity of "guns everywhere" proponents. To us, it made them seem more human and thoughtful. After listening to the tape, we were not surprised to hear the NRA bumper sticker mythology that they regurgitated in response.
We do find it amusing that people who believe the big lie "more guns make us safer" had such a huge problem with an eight-second pause that kept them from making mythological statements that we could refute with the facts and data from years of research from respected researchers. The truth is the filmmakers didn't have to edit Under the Gun to make "guns everywhere" proponents look silly. They do that on their own every day! The filmmakers could easily have made caricatures out of them, but they didn't. They tried to offer viewers a look at multiple varied, nuanced and opposing perspectives on the debate.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Virginia Citizens Defense League and debate each and every question that they were asked on camera. Let the camera capture their response and our rebuttal. This film is so good it scared the NRA and the rest of the corporate gun lobby. They reacted in their usual way, which is to intimidate, bully, discredit, and silence anyone who might start a conversation on how to save some of the lives of the 33,000 people who die every year due to gun violence.
Let's debate the merits, instead of making personal attacks in an attempt to deflect from the facts about how 33,000 Americans die every year due to gun violence, and that many of these deaths can be prevented by keeping guns out of dangerous hands.
The shameless gun lobby and its allies don't want to have a serious conversation about the ways to reduce gun deaths.
Instead of engaging in reasonable debate on substantive issues about how to save lives by keeping guns out of dangerous hands, numerous "guns everywhere" trolls have attacked the filmmakers on social media in the most vile ways imaginable. They are clearly threatened by the truths revealed in the film. They are focusing on eight seconds of silence because to focus on two hours of irrefutable facts would dismantle the pro-gun ideology to which they cling.
What we have come to realize is that whenever the "guns everywhere" zealots feel threatened, their modus operandi is to attack, and to attack in the most vicious way possible. We are parents (and a fellow gun owner, no less) who are simply trying to prevent other parents from suffering the type of loss we have. The vitriol hurled at us is not only senseless, it's inhuman.
One Twitter troll, @charle5manson, tweeted to Couric: "I would like to shit on your chest you lying trashbag." Another troll, @calibeaner, piled on: "F--k you lying bitch." Not to be outdone, @wiseoldgrizzly, tweeted: "You lying c--t. Get the f--k out of the USA."
We encourage you to see Under the Gun yourself and make up your own mind. You might find it illuminating. As Womens eNews has stated in its review, this is a must-see film:
Under the Gun, a documentary directed by Stephanie Soechtig and executive produced by Katie Couric, who also narrates, focuses on gun violence in the U.S. It spotlights the lack of any legislative response to the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, where 20 school children were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut. The film gives voice to grieving parents of murdered children, experts in civil law and NRA members who disagree with its opposition to mandatory background checks for gun buyers and other measures. Even if you think you already know all about this issue, the film is a must-see and a must share.
Having lived in this gun activism world for more than three years we can say that we are not the least bit surprised by this drummed up controversy. The shameless gun lobby and its allies don't want to have a serious conversation about the ways to reduce gun deaths. They prefer to shout down anybody who tries to bring attention to the carnage.
So we have to shout louder -- and shout truth and stick to the issue of how to reduce and prevent gun violence. Their cowardly attempts to deflect, disparage, and distract miss the mark. The real controversy here is how the corporate gun lobby and its spoonfed trolls promote a "guns everywhere" mentality instead of working to save more lives by keeping guns out of dangerous hands.
We loved our daughter and were proud of her. A murderer took her life in a theater -- a place where anyone should feel safe. Those are the facts. The corporate gun lobby trolls should be ashamed of themselves for blowing smoke instead of putting out the fire.