I just knew. Something in my gut told me, “your friend is gone.” Soon, I was able to confirm what I already felt in my heart: My friend and his wife had been killed in the Sutherland Springs, Tex., church shooting.
Overcome with rage and grief, all I could do was sob. Bob was the kindest and gentlest person I’ve ever known. Every day, he carried himself with a humor and grace that touched many lives. I am a better person for having known him.
As I processed the news of Bob’s death, and the death of his wife, Shani, a thought occurred to me that I have not been able to shake. One of the many things that Bob and I had in common was military service. I was in the Navy for 27 years, and Bob served our country for 29 years as a member of the Air Force.
To protect our country, we traveled to places where our lives were in immediate danger. How could we return home to face yet more violence? How could we return home to be met with inaction and what comes off as indifference from elected officials who have done nothing to reduce gun violence in our country?
Twenty-six people were shot and killed in Sutherland Springs on Sunday. Fifty-eight people were shot and killed in Las Vegas last month. And, 93 Americans are shot and killed every single day. Hundreds more are wounded.
Instead, we must demand that the people we have elected to represent us take real action to save American lives. The solutions that members of Congress should be working toward are crystal clear.
As has been well-documented by the media, the shooter in Sutherland Springs had a terrifying history of domestic violence. He was found guilty of assaulting his wife and brutally injuring his infant stepson. He had also threatened his in-laws, who worship at the church he targeted. While they were not there on Sunday, his grandmother-in-law was. She is now among the dead.
The shooter’s history is not unique. In fact, the majority of mass shootings in America are related to domestic or family violence. That’s why Congress should take action nowto keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers by passing a bill Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced this summer. Her bill would strengthen protections for victims of domestic abuse, violence, and stalking and help keep guns out of the hands of people with dangerous histories.
What Congress should not do is create new, dangerous loopholes in our gun safety laws by letting certain domestic abusers carry concealed, loaded handguns across the country through a proposed policy called “concealed carry reciprocity.” Unfortunately, members backed by the gun lobby are still actively pursuing this legislation.
Since learning of his death, I’ve struggled with the reality that I will never talk to Bob again. In his honor, I’m asking everyone I know and everyone I talk to about this tragedy to do two things.
First, think about the people who brighten your day. Maybe it’s a coworker who always takes time to make extra coffee for others in the office. Or, maybe it’s a friend you don’t talk to nearly enough but, when you do, always makes you smile. Call that person, and tell them how much their presence in your life matters to you.
Second, fight like hell. Think about if this had been your community. Call the people who represent you in Congress, and tell them we need common-sense gun violence prevention legislation, like Sen. Klobuchar’s bill. Tell them that inaction is no longer an option.
We can’t bring back the lives that gun violence has already taken from us. But, each of us can take action to prevent more deaths.
Sherri Santos is a San Antonio-based volunteer with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.