Skip to main content

Virginia Tech mom: Politicians, stop listening to the gun lobbyists

By Lori Haas, Special to CNN
updated 9:38 AM EST, Wed December 19, 2012
Mourners wipe tears away as they file out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the funeral of Emilie Parker in Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, December 22. Mourners wipe tears away as they file out of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the funeral of Emilie Parker in Ogden, Utah, on Saturday, December 22.
HIDE CAPTION
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
Newtown funerals: Community says goodbye
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lori Haas: The magnitude of the Newtown shooting shocked me
  • Haas: It reminds me of when my daughter was injured in the Virginia Tech shooting
  • She says our elected leaders have abandoned all sense of right and wrong
  • Haas: How many victims would be alive today if leaders took their responsibilities to heart?

Editor's note: Lori Haas lives in Richmond, Virginia. After her daughter Emily was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech massacre, she became involved in gun violence prevention efforts, working for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

(CNN) -- Sitting in front of the TV on Friday, I watched in horror as the death toll climbed with each news report coming in on the mass shooting in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The magnitude of the shooting shocked me.

It also took me back to five years ago, when I received a phone call on a blustery April morning that changed my life forever. I was out shopping, and my cell phone had rung several times, but I had chosen to ignore the calls. Luckily, I answered the third call, which came in at 10:38 a.m. My daughter Emily, then a sophomore at Virginia Tech, was on the phone. She said, "Mommy, I've been shot."

Clutching the phone, my knees buckling, I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. Emily quickly handed the phone to the EMT who had triaged her and was waiting with her for an ambulance. The EMT assured me that Emily was going to be fine, that there were very seriously wounded students that needed to be transported immediately and she was waiting with Emily for the next ambulance. She also shared that the situation on campus was "very bad."

Lori Haas
Lori Haas

The world soon knew how bad it was. The incident at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, remains the worst mass shooting in U.S. history in terms of casualties. Thirty-two students and school staff were killed that morning by a dangerously mentally ill student with guns, including high-capacity magazines. The killer should have been prevented from purchasing firearms, but when he purchased his weapons, his mental health records were not in the FBI database against which background checks are run. He used 30-round magazines, which had been outlawed up until 2004, when Congress let the Assault Weapons Ban expire.

Shooting triggers 'mind battle' for Columbine survivors

We were one of the lucky families -- our daughter survived, when so many others did not. Eleven of the 17 students in her classroom were killed, along with her professor. A classmate dialed 911 when they first heard the shooter, but dropped his cell phone when almost immediately, the killer burst into the classroom and began spraying bullets at everyone. Emily reached over and picked up the phone and kept the dispatcher on the phone during the entire ordeal by hiding the phone. Law enforcement repeatedly told me how brave Emily was to keep them on the line.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Law enforcement has also told me that the single most effective thing we can do to prevent gun violence would be to require all purchasers for all gun sales to undergo a background check. Then-Gov. Tim Kaine appointed a panel of experts to investigate all aspects of the massacre and report back their recommendations. Recommendation VI-2 stated, "Virginia should require background checks for all firearms sales." Sadly, that hasn't happened, and gun deaths now outpace motor vehicle deaths in my state.

Community coping with shooting tragedy
'The Voice' pays tribute to Newtown
Carney: Hard to forget Newtown rawness

America has witnessed mass shooting tragedies grow in frequency in the last five years to the point that, according to one report, there have been 16 mass shootings between February 22, 2012, and December 14, 2012, leaving over 80 dead and many injured. I can't help but ache with sorrow, anguish and concern for all those families suffering the sheer agony that I saw the families of the 32 killed at Virginia Tech suffer.

And I can't help but be angered at the cowardly behavior from our elected leaders. They have abandoned all sense of right and wrong, despite epidemic deaths from guns, and ignored their duty not only to keep our communities safe from gun violence, but to keep our children safe as well.

When I think of those killed -- over 60,000 Americans have been murdered with guns since the shooting at Virginia Tech -- I have to wonder how many might be alive today if our elected leaders had taken to heart their responsibilities.

Why is it that our elected leaders have not only ignored the pleas of survivors and family members of victims of gun violence, but those of our public safety officials -- police and law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line day in and day out -- only to listen to the gun lobby when determining public safety policy? What sense can that make when the gun lobby's sole purpose is to sell as many firearms as possible to make as much money as possible?

Do you own a gun that fell under the now-expired federal weapons ban?

We have come to a time when many say the unimaginable has happened again -- the mass shooting in the Newtown school where 26 people were killed, including 20 children. It is sheer senselessness. My heart goes out with the utmost compassion to the families suffering so terribly from Friday's massacre.

For those whose loved ones have been killed, there is no real closure; there are permanent holes in their hearts. Time may lend a helping hand to healing, but their lives have been changed irrevocably. As my friend Lynnette, whose son was murdered in the Virginia Tech shooting, laments, "There is no ending to the heartache." I am brought to tears thinking of all we have seen, all we have not done and all we have let die.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lori Haas.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
updated 9:29 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Tue September 30, 2014
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
updated 8:33 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
updated 5:37 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
updated 12:58 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
updated 3:00 PM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
John Sutter says the right is often stereotyped on climate change. But with 97% of climate scientists say humans are causing global warming, we all have to get together on this.
updated 8:57 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Andrew Liepman and Philip Mudd: When we declare that we will defeat ISIS, what do we exactly mean?
updated 4:40 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
Thailand sex trafficking
Human trafficking is a multibillion dollar global industry. To beat it, we need to change mindsets, Cindy McCain says.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
The leaders of the GOP conferences say a Republican-led Senate could help solve America's problems.
updated 10:01 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Nicholas Syrett says Wesleyan University's decision to make fraternities admit women will help curb rape culture.
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Thu September 25, 2014
Mike Downey says New Yorkers may be overdoing it, but baseball will really miss Derek Jeter
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Mon September 29, 2014
Quick: Which U.S. president has authorized wars of various kinds in seven Muslim countries?
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Wed September 24, 2014
Women's issues should be considered front and center when assessing a society's path, says Zainab Salbi
updated 2:05 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
A catastrophe not making headlines like Ebola and ISIS: the astounding rate of child poverty in the world's richest country.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT