Last month, a man with a violent history shot and killed his wife. He then proceeded, reportedly at random, to shoot and kill four more people and injure at least 10 others on a rampage throughout the unincorporated Tehama County community of Rancho Tehama Reserve.
It was a horrific day for that community, our state and our country, one that left families missing loved ones forever. As a mother who had her daughter taken from this earth by gun violence, I know all too well the pain the families of the victims feel.
I miss my daughter every second of every day. I also know that if she had not heard that gunfire, my grandson might have died with her.
Seven years ago, my 30-year-old daughter Monique was buckling her 2-year-old son into his car seat in a Sacramento shopping center in the middle of the day when she was shot and killed in the crossfire of a gun battle she had nothing to do with. Her body was found draped over her baby boy, the bullets in her back.
Law enforcement officers said afterward that she apparently threw herself over her son as a human shield, when she heard the first gunshots. She saved his life; others testified that they ran for cover when they heard the gunfire in the parking lot.
Hearing the sound of gunfire also likely saved lives during the Tehama shooting. When the shooter approached Rancho Tehama Elementary School, children were still being dropped off by their parents. According to local law enforcement officials, just before school commenced, the school staff heard a gunshot and then another. Staff and teachers immediately went into a lockdown and ushered students into classrooms. The shooter, at that point, was only about a quarter-mile away.
When he arrived at the school, he fired dozens of rounds at the building, but was unable to enter the locked classrooms. He eventually left the premises and although some children suffered injuries, all children and staff at that school survived. The Tehama County assistant sheriff called the swift lockdown “monumental,” saying he thought “we would have had a horrific bloodbath in that school if that school had not taken that action when they did.”
In the aftermath of these kinds of tragedies, families are left wondering: What if their loved ones had been there five seconds later or five seconds earlier? As heartbreaking as the death of my daughter and the shooting in Tehama were, what strikes me today is that both could have been even worse.
In both cases, however, at least someone was able to hear the gunfire and act to protect others. The loud and distinctive noise that a gun makes is important for public safety. When people hear a gunshot, they know to run, hide, protect themselves or notify law enforcement. During active and mass shooter situations, hearing and identifying a gunshot can often mean the difference between life and death.
But gun lobby-backed legislation, currently in the House and Senate, would remove gun silencers from the National Firearms Act, making it easy for convicted felons, domestic abusers and people with dangerous mental illnesses to buy silencers without getting a background check simply by finding an unlicensed seller. Silencers distort the sound of gunshots and in the wrong hands make it harder for bystanders and law enforcement to react, putting our safety at risk.
I miss my daughter every second of every day. I also know that if she had not heard that gunfire, my grandson might have died with her. I decided I wanted to speak out and share what happened to her. That’s why I joined the Everytown Survivor Network – to share my family’s story in the hope that other families will not be torn apart by gun violence.
Gun violence in this country is a public health issue – more than 90 Americans are shot and killed every day and hundreds more are injured. Congress seems incapable of focusing on common sense legislation that will help save lives. This legislation rolling back gun silencer safety laws to make it easy for people with dangerous histories to obtain silencers is just the most recent case.
After the shooting at Rancho Tehama, after my daughter was shot was killed and after too many other instances of gun violence, I urge our California representatives in Congress, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Costa, to reject this legislation and recommit to efforts to reduce gun violence across the country and in our state.
Deborah Nelson of Toluca Lake is a retired school principal and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.