Transforming Tragedy as Gun Incidents Rise

As shootings in public spaces like schools and movie theaters are seemingly more commonplace, more people are turning to guns for self-defense. In 2013, the total number of background checks for gun sales hit a new record of 21,093,273, which climbed from 2012's record number of 19,592,303.

Women are among the fastest growing demographic of gun ownership, making up 13 percent of all gun owners in 2005 and 23 percent in 2011, according to a Gallup Poll. However, strong evidence released by the Harvard School of Public Health reveals the number of guns in the home greatly increases the likelihood of a gun accident, suicide and femicide.

More gun owners do not make a country any safer, says a 2013 report in the American Journal of Medicine. The report, released four days after the shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, found guns give the nation a false sense of security. In fact, the United States takes first place worldwide for both highest rate of gun ownership and highest rate of deaths from firearms. Conversely, Japan has the lowest rates of both gun ownership and gun-related deaths.

In this dark time for our country, certain individuals represent the healing, leadership and discipline that can raise our awareness as a country and take us to a more thoughtful and self-regulated place. These are the victims, the parents, the neighbors and the activists who have vowed to turn these national tragedies into a guiding light.

Chanda Hinton is one such role model. At the age of 9, Chanda was playing with two 14-year-old boys when one picked up a gun without knowing it was loaded, shooting Chanda in the back of the neck. Miraculously, Chanda survived the injury, but the blow injured her C5-C6 vertebrae and resulted in her inability to move from the neck down. As a quadriplegic, Chanda adopted an indefatigable attitude of positivity until she got to college. As a student at CU Denver, she was out of her comfort zone and ultimately dropped out.

After some time to regroup, she began working with other healing therapies like massage, yoga and acupuncture. She regained her strong spirit, went back to college, and graduated with the help of her sister, her new community of friends and her service dog, Flint. After graduating, she founded the Chanda Plan Foundation to raise funds and awareness for integrative therapies for others persons with disabilities. You can watch her inspiring TEDx Talk here.

Another inspiration is former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Just this month, to mark the three years since she was critically wounded by a gunshot to the head, Giffords went skydiving to celebrate her recovery.

In the last week, we've seen senseless shootings in Roswell, Florida, and most recently, Purdue University. We continue to lose precious members of our society and pay dearly as a country. Beyond the death toll, our country is laden with countless victims of gun violence, direct and indirect, who have courageously survived and overcome larger obstacles than many of us hope to face in our lives.

In November 2007, University of Chicago graduate student Amadou Cisse was shot point blank when he didn't hand over his backpack quick enough to Demetrius Warren, who was armed with a .22-caliber. This incident lead the University of Chicago to open the Crime Lab, which is a center dedicated to reducing violent crime. Researchers believe they've found a solution: To train youth to slow down and think before they act. In the case of Cisse and Warren, had Warren possessed the know-how to slow down in order to evaluate the situation, he likely would have realized the resale value of a backpack and a water bottle wasn't worth another man's life, and the rest of his life behind bars, says director of the Crime Lab, Jens Ludwig.

Perhaps it is our time as a country to adopt the will these countless victims possess and take on the challenges that lie ahead over the gun violence debate. We cannot prevent accidents, but we can control the number of guns in homes. We cannot know what drives people to violence, but we can make resources for mental health, stress, anxiety and depression as acceptable and accessible as owning a gun. More guns will not make us safer. Instead of giving the mentally ill, the juveniles, the criminals and all our citizens easy access to ammunition, it's time to arm the nation with an education. Sharing the triumphs of those taking on the fight is a great place to start.

You can read more about Chanda and many other college and career role models in the KEYS TO COLLEGE SUCCESS 8th edition by Carol Carter and Sarah Kravits, published by Pearson Education. Watch for other role models for college and career success in the coming days.