Katie Hill: A call for action

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The recent shooting in Florida completely breaks my heart. It breaks for the families and loved ones of the children lost, the kids who saw their friends murdered and will relive that trauma in their dreams for the rest of their lives, the community as it tries to recover from the unimaginable. It breaks for every person in our country whose fear and grief is reignited by yet another tragic mass-shooting that we watch unfold, helpless and angry, unable to comprehend why it happens – and why our lawmakers refuse to do anything about it.

Gun violence is something I and my family know all too well. My dad is a police officer, my husband’s dad is a police officer, my husband’s uncle was a police officer who lost his life in the line of duty to gun violence. We each grew up not only knowing about gun violence, but fearing every day that our own father might be the victim of it.

My mom spent most of her career as an ER nurse at one of the busiest trauma centers in Los Angeles County. Nearly every shift, she had to treat one or more gunshot wound victims, and she was the one who held the loved ones as they sobbed. I saw her do this while I was volunteering in her ER. When my mom and the other staff had to go back to seeing other patients, my job was to help the family how I could, trying to be quiet and supportive, fighting to hold back my own tears. My original career choice to go into nursing was altered by a single night in the ER — when a teenager came in with multiple gunshot wounds. I was the one left holding his hand while he took his final breaths.

It was seeing his passing and listening to stories from this young man’s grieving sister that changed my mind about going into nursing. From that moment on, I wanted to change the systems that leads to this violence and tragedy in the first place. I had to do something before people ended up in the ER.

A tragic number of people are lost in our country to gun deaths – due to suicide, domestic abuse, gang violence, mass shootings, or tragic accidents. The result of any of these types of gun death  are the same – grieving families. I have heard a mother’s wail after finding her child dead – after a friend suffering from depression no one knew about committed suicide with her husband’s hunting rifle. It is a sound I will never forget, and working to prevent more mothers from that unbearable agony is why I’m running for Congress.

The inaction by our representatives on measures to curb the epidemic of gun violence is unacceptable and inexcusable. I am a gun owner myself, and have friends and family who are strong second amendment supporters. The truth is, all of the gun owners I know are in favor of common sense gun safety measures, and are just as disgusted by the inexplicable lack of progress on this issue as everyone else. The vast majority of Americans agree that measures like universal background checks, waiting periods, and disqualifying terrorists, domestic abusers and those in mental health crisis from buying weapons are all simple solutions we can take action on — TODAY — that would save lives from being lost tomorrow. I am fully committed to being a leader in Congress to advocate for these measures.

Common-sense gun safety measures cannot be the end of the conversation – we must also confront the underlying causes that often cause people to act violently. The discussion must include investing resources to identify people who are exhibiting warning signs of potentially violent behavior, and proactively preventing tragedies through counseling. We need mental health programs integrated into our schools and we need better training in observing signs of aggression, violent behavior and depression. We need to destigmatize our conversation about mental health, and to take a compassionate and proactive approach in the way we relate with one another. We need all of these things because the alternative is more kids dying and more mothers grieving and I’m not okay with that – no one should be.

I have seen first-hand the tragic consequences of gun violence. I have seen the victims, comforted survivors and lost friends and family members. I’m running for Congress to put an end to these senseless tragedies. I look forward to pushing our nation towards progress together.

Katie Hill is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives CA 25th District.

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