Survivors of gun violence are re-traumatized daily, exposed to a hideous and never-ending onslaught of shootings, both in real life and through the media.
Our injuries are constantly reopened, and yet are invisible. We are survivors of community violence, suicides, mass shootings, domestic violence, and all other intentional or unintentional shootings.
Today, my message to all gun violence survivors and our allies is: Let’s never forget to take care of ourselves and one another! We have to remember that our trauma can affect us for decades and that even old wounds can reopen.
Old wounds never closed for Austin Eubanks, 37, a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, who was found dead in his home in Steamboat Springs, CO on Saturday. Today, Colorado Ceasefire–an all-volunteer statewide organization that has worked for freedom from gun violence since 2000–stated the following in a press release:
Only last month, the Littleton community held ceremonies remembering those killed and wounded twenty years ago. Eubanks was in the library on that fateful day and saw his best friend shot and killed, before he was shot twice. He struggled with opioid addiction as a result of the shooting and later became a public speaker discussing the issues of addiction, last speaking at a conference on May 2nd of this year.
After the Parkland shooting, Eubanks began to speak out on gun violence issues. In a video he said: “But if we’re not looking at the ability that citizens have in our society to kill large numbers of people, we’re not looking at the real problem here.” He held in particular disregard the idea of arming teachers, calling it an “incredibly ridiculous idea.”
Eubanks said “The biggest frustration I have is, that when a tragedy like this occurs, by in large, we fracture into two camps – either gun legislation or mental health. The fact is both play an enormous role in this.”
Mass shootings have devastating effects on survivors that can continue for years. Annemarie Hochhalter, was seriously injured and wheelchair bound from the Columbine shooting. Only six months later, her mother Carla Hochhalter took her own life. Jeremy Richman, whose daughter Avielle, was shot and killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, took his own life this past March, just days after two students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school also ended their own lives.
Eubank’s family released a statement saying that Austin had “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face…We plan to continue his work.” Our thoughts are with the family of Austin Eubanks. Blessed be his memory.
Karen Abrams, Interim Executive Director
States United to Prevent Gun Violence
Don’t forget to check out what YOUR state is doing to make our communities safe from the scourge of gun violence every day, and to protect survivors from future trauma!