Ten years. It has been 10 years since my colleagues at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and I were shot. Ten years since Pam was murdered. A whole weekend can go by now, without my thinking it, saying it: “I was shot.” It’s starting to feel like it happened in the past. It’s simply part of who I am now.
I continue to serve on the board of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation, but last year I left my paid position in the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement. My life is no longer GVP 24/7. This is a good thing.
But for a couple of years, my life was dedicated to GVP. According to the FBI, 4,000 felons were caught trying to buy a gun in Washington during the last year. As of last March, our state’s new background check law had blocked 50 of those gun purchases. This is possible because Washington state voters passed Initiative 594 in November, 2014, and I was the citizen sponsor of that ballot initiative.
A few weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012, I was testifying in Olympia to the House Judiciary Committee, in favor of then-Rep. Jamie Pedersen’s background check bill. To do this, I had to sit with my back to a row of “against” testifiers who were each wearing a loaded handgun.
In June 2013, I shared my survivor’s story at TEDxSeattle to a crowd of 500. I began working as a community organizer for the I-594 campaign, helping gather the more than 340,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the 2014 ballot. On staff with Everytown for Gun Safety, I created a Washington state network of survivors of gun violence. I also served as secretary on the founding board of the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility.
Once we knew we’d be on the ballot, campaign fundraising efforts meant I was telling my survival story at more than 60 fundraising house parties and other events. I debated gun lobby spokespersons on public television and in newspaper editorial board interviews across the state. I phone banked. I doorbelled. And I celebrated the campaign’s success, surrounded by fellow survivors and GVP allies.
Today, the tide is truly turning both here in Washington state and in the other Washington, as we see candidates take up the GVP cause. Of course there’s still much more work to be done to help prevent gun violence while protecting our Second Amendment rights. I’m watching proudly as another survivor has stepped forward to be the citizen sponsor of a new ballot initiative, I-1491. When it passes, families and law enforcement will have the tools to prevent gun tragedies while protecting due process rights. And it will close another loophole, one that allows abusers to access firearms.
Despite all the pain and costs of being shot in the abdomen at point-blank range, I can say my life is richer now than it was 10 years ago, before that fateful day.
Timelines of Tragedy
Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting. Aurora, Colorado theater shooting. Café Racer, Seattle shooting. Clackamas Mall, Oregon shooting. Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut shooting. Twenty first graders and six educators are murdered.
I know that I, personally, need to do something about gun violence in America. I start raising my hand to tell my story.
Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is shot in the head. The gunman shoots 19 people total. Six are killed.
Federation shooter Naveed Haq is sentenced to life plus 120 years, no possibility of parole, at Walla Walla State Penitentiary.
I return to full-time work, now at a large medical research organization. It’s meaningful work, but it’s not my right work.
Haq is tried a second time, and this time the jury convicts. Fort Hood mass shooting.
I undergo the final major surgery resulting from the shooting. I am working part-time. My mom dies of cancer.
Federation shooter Naveed Haq is tried for aggravated murder, malicious harassment — Washington’s hate-crime statute — five counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count of unlawful imprisonment. He pleads insanity. The jury is hung.
I leave my job at the Jewish Federation.
Virginia Tech mass shooting.
I gradually make my way back to working full-time at the Federation.
On Friday, July 28, around 4 p.m., I’m shot, along with five of my coworkers.