It Didn't End in Tucson, Let's Fix it Now

December 19, 2012

This blog was originally published on December 7, 2011. A word from the author in December 2012:

I wrote this blog a year ago this month, as a reflection of the thousands of people we lose each year to gun violence, one of them my own brother. Writing it, I never imagined an incident like the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where 20 children and 6 teachers were gunned down and a school was transformed from a safe haven for students and teachers to a place overwhelmed with violent memories and loss of life. Like many people, I have been glued to the television waiting for more information, heartsick and dreading it at the same time. Looking into the faces of the young victims is unspeakably sad.  I can only hope that this senseless act will spark this country into standing up for what matters most…LIFE!

If together we act to improve policies and supports, we will be honoring the memories of those 26 lives cut unthinkably short. In addition to my efforts to make sure that guns are not more accessible than school books, I am praying for the victims and their families.


Ten months after the Tucson, Arizona shooting that claimed six lives and critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, gun violence continues to plague our communities. Every day in America, 34 people are killed by a gun.

I know this firsthand; in 2005, my brother Andre was gunned down in his sleep by a friend who had access to an illegal hand gun. It was a month before Andre's 21st birthday.

So when Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), a coalition of over 600 mayors who support gun control reforms, launched the National Drive to Fix Gun Checks, I was interested.

Since Tucson, 10,000 people have been killed by guns in America.

The campaign aims to raise awarness about the deadly gaps in the current background check system. As part of the campaign, a mobile billboard truck is traveling across the country. It includes an electronic clock tracking the number of people murdered in America since Tucson—a figure that now stands at more than 10,000.

TRUCKOn Nov. 14, the truck came to Washington, DC, kicking off a two-day Capitol Hill convening hosted by MAIG. I was one of more than 60 gun violence survivors invited to participate. Honored, I said yes. 

I was surrounded by people from all over the country, some of who lost family members in the shooting at Virginia Tech and in Tucson. While I was happy to be among them, feeling as though I was making a difference, I was of course saddened by the shared tragedies that brought together in the first place.

We met with our members of congress and asked them to support the Fix Gun Checks Act (House H.R. 1791 and Senate S. 436). This bill is by no means prefect but it will help to close two loopholes in the background check system that make it possible for dangerous people like Jared Lee Loughner (the Tucson shooter) to buy a gun.

If this bill is passed, states and federal agencies will have to enter millions of records on prohibited purchasers into the National Instant Background Check System, known as (NICS). It will also require that background checks for  before all private gun sales can be finalized. The proponents of bill tell me that had those provisions been in place just five years ago, there may not have been a Virginal Tech or a Tucson shooting.

I know that some people will argue that the bill violates law-abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights. I disagree. The Fix Gun Check Act is only a way to prevent prohibited (i.e., not so law-abiding) people from purchasing or possessing guns; it isn’t meant to keep a record of gun owners or limit their rights.

My brother Andre's voice was silenced forever on that day in October 2005—but mine hasn't been, which is why I am out there asking Congress to fix our background check system.

You can help too. Let your Members of Congress know where you stand.

Video: Omar Samaha's sister Reema was killed four years ago at Virginia Tech. Now he's driving cross-country to meet with lawmakers, survivors, victims' families and supporters to show Washington that Americans wants gun legislation that works.


Jamira Burley is a student at Temple University in Pennsylvania and a youth blogger for SparkAction. You can follow her on twitter @jamiraburley or read her personal blog at

Image at top of article: gun violence survivors from Pennsylvania standing outside the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, preparing to meet with Members of Congress. Image courtesy of Jamira Burley.

Jamira Burley