On Sunday, while many of us slept, a gunman opened fire on a bus in a University of Virginia parking lot, killing three students: DeSean Perry, Devin Chandler and LaVall Davis Jr. Two others were injured. Students from across campus sheltered in place for nearly 12 hours, and an intense manhunt ensued, ending when the suspect was taken into custody without incident. The incident is the 598th mass shooting of the year and the second school shooting in Virginia in 2022.
Polls showed gun control was one of the top five issues for voters in last week’s midterms. It’s clear that people are fed up with the fear of mass shootings, and they showed it by re-electing every senator who co-sponsored a federal assault weapons ban bill.
This does not surprise me. As an anti-gun activist, I’ve been lobbying for a federal assault weapons ban since my 6-year-old son and I survived a mass shooting earlier this year after a man opened fire on four of us with an AR-15. Seven people were killed and 40 injured at a July parade in Highland Park, Illinois.
On a brisk but sunny Wednesday afternoon in September, I sat in a meeting surrounded by a small group of gun violence victims, survivors, and activists. We’re gathered in a circle of seats in the private office of Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.
He sat right in front of me with only two feet of warm air between us.
We walked around the room introducing ourselves and the senator was friendly. His face was suitably sympathetic. He looked each of us in the eye as we spoke. When I told him about running with my 6-year-old son from a mass shooter, he shook his head nervously.
After the introductions closed, we solicited the Senator’s support for a federal assault weapons ban.
Kim and Felix Rubio, the parents of Lexi, who was killed at Robb Elementary School in May, had traveled from Uvalde, Texas. Felix showed the senator a photo of their 10-year-old daughter in the casket. The senator looked at Rubios’ pained face as he said his solution to school shootings was to put more police in schools.
The energy in the room suddenly changed. It was obvious. Some members of our group gasped. Others started crying. Sandy Phillips, the mother of Jesse Phillips, who was shot dead in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, left the room in tears. Shock and disbelief hung over each of us when someone blurted out that 376 law enforcement officers stood by and did nothing to save the 19 children and two teachers brutally murdered in Uvalde.
They did nothing to save Lexie.
On Oct. 24, nearly six weeks after that meeting, a school shooting in St. Louis became the 40th school shooting of the year.
As details emerged, the shooter reportedly had a dozen 30-round magazines and used an AR-15-style rifle. Like the shooter in Uvalde. Like in Highland Park. The school had metal detectors, locked doors, and security guards.
Even the police couldn’t stop this school shooting — the shooter’s family asked police to seize the weapon used to kill 16-year-old Alexandria Bell and physical education teacher Jean Kushka. Police confiscated the weapon, but “the suspect was legally permitted to possess a firearm at the time”. The AR-15-style assault weapon was returned to a third party known to the family. It is not known how the shooter got hold of the gun.
Ted Cruz has been quiet on Twitter. But gun violence advocates weren’t. Because we know that police, security guards, and locked doors won’t stop school shootings. Even schools with their own police forces, such as the University of Virginia, cannot prevent mass shootings.
While we don’t know what kind of gun was used in the shooting in Virginia, the only thing that would prevent the majority of mass shootings and school shootings is banning assault weapons. The data proves it. During the assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004, the risk of being killed in a mass shooting dropped by 70%.
Killing our children is an easy way to weapons of war. Now, an 18-year-old who is not old enough to purchase alcohol or a handgun can legally purchase an assault weapon. Assault weapons are designed to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. An AR-15 was involved in the shooting my son and I survived. In less than 50 seconds, the Highland Park shooter fired nearly 100 rounds into the crowd of families. He stopped to reload twice. In Uvalde, some parents had to use DNA to identify their children because bullets from an assault weapon were powerful enough to liquefy a person’s organs.
These are weapons of war, and they are used time and time again to kill our children in the one place they should feel safe – at school. That’s not the worst thing. The Washington Post database on school shootings reports that since the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, the number of children exposed to gun violence in schools has reached 320,000.
A federal assault weapons ban would have prevented the massacre in Uvalde and the killing of a 16-year-old girl and her teacher in St. Louis. Please don’t wait for gun violence to touch your family. Call your senators today through the US Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and help pass a federal assault weapons ban. Ask them to support the ban, then vote to elect gun-conscious candidates.
Sadly, I believe it’s not a matter of if gun violence will touch your life, but when. The clock is ticking – don’t let your family run out of it.
A representative for Cruz emailed HuffPost the following statement regarding the senator’s response: “Sen. Cruz, who was in Uvalde to mourn with the community the day after the shooting, later met with the victims’ loved ones. In the wake of this tragedy, Senator Cruz introduced legislation and fought to enact reforms that doubled the number of school resource officers, hired 15,000 school-based mental health professionals to ensure early intervention to identify and help at-risk children, and provide significant resources. Increased school security, improved gun background checks and prosecuted those trying to buy guns illegally. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats blocked it without explanation.
Ashbey Beasley is a proud Native American wife, mother, serial entrepreneur, and mass shooting survivor and activist.
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