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Shooting massacre survivors: ‘Thoughts and prayers’ aren’t enough

Via WaPo by Eli Saslow, September 21: “The survivors took their places onstage from memory, because by now they knew exactly where to go. The shooting victims in wheelchairs entered first, rolling into the front row, wearing bracelets engraved with the words “Aurora,” “Oak Creek” or “Virginia Tech.” Behind them stood a dozen people in black T-shirts who held memorial photos of relatives killed in America’s most infamous mass shootings. In the far back were politicians holding copies of their speeches and gun-control activists waving signs, including one that read: “How many more victims does it take?” Minutes before the rally began, two of the speakers walked across the lawn of the U.S. Capitol toward the stage. One of them, Stephen Barton, had been shot at a midnight movie premiere in Aurora, Colo., and he had deferred a teaching position in Russia so he could recover from having 16 shotgun pellets surgically removed from his arm, neck and face. The other, Carlee Soto, was taking a semester off from community college because the desks reminded her of the first-grade classroom in Newtown, Conn., where her sister had taught. Their event in Washington on Thursday was the final stop of a 100-day summer bus tour: 25 rallies in 25 states organized by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, involving more than a hundred survivors who told their stories and showed their scars, hoping to inflame a country that they fear has gone numb. They traveled by bus to mark six months since Newtown and the first anniversaries of gunfire at a movie theater in Aurora and a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. They went to Ohio, where a gun rights counter-rally drew twice the crowd; and to Fargo, N.D., where the mayor told them guns didn’t present a problem. Then, just last week, hours before the bus arrived in Washington, a dozen people were slain at the Washington Navy Yard. Another Newtown. Another Aurora or Oak Creek. Now Barton stepped up to the lectern in Washington and studied a crowd that included some of the latest survivors of a mass shooting. The 100-day bus tour had not been enough to change national gun laws. Trips to lobby in Washington had not been enough. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s money had not been enough. Neither had 20 first-graders, or 70 people killed or wounded in a Colorado theater, or 32 dead at Virginia Tech, or 13 at an immigration center, or the 35 people who are killed with guns in the United States on an average day.”

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