I got involved with gun violence prevention work because of what happened to our family friend, Tammy. On July 27, 2008, Tammy and her boys, ages 3 and 5, were at a children’s production of “Annie,” at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. A man entered the church with a sawed-off shotgun in a guitar case and opened fire, killing two and injuring seven others, including Tammy. The shooter intentionally shot up this particular church because it was known as welcoming of all, and he hated liberals, Democrats, African-Americans and gays. The shooter has been imprisoned since the day of the shooting and will remain in prison for the rest of his life.
Thankfully, Tammy survived her shooting. She says she always keeps a good therapist nearby, but, for the most part, she is doing very well. Always a devoted mother and wife, she says her shooting made her even more dedicated to the well-being of her husband and children, even though her career may have taken a few hits.
As for me, Tammy’s shooting forced me to know that no one in America is safe anywhere as long as our country is awash in firearms. Every time I go to church, I plan my exit, and often find myself checking out other worshippers, wondering if they are armed. On a more positive note, Tammy’s shooting, a murder/suicide in my family, and the Sandy Hook School shooting forced me into full-time gun violence prevention volunteer work, like so many others. We will fix this mess.