When I look back, ever since I was a teenager, the effort to prevent gun violence has touched me.

Meeting Jim Brady

I was a Maryland high school student interested in journalism, Washington politics and the press. I remember when the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan left his White House Press Secretary Jim Brady paralyzed from a gunshot wound.

Mr. Brady made it his life’s work to campaign for stronger gun violence prevention laws like background checks. I was lucky enough to meet him at a journalism conference and hear his passionate dedication to the effort. It planted a seed with me that we can make a difference and save lives.

One music festival away from a massacre

My tipping point came much later. As an avid music festival fan, I attend at least three music festivals a year. I love big crowds and the energy of the music!

I was in Las Vegas at the Life is Beautiful Festival in 2017. The following weekend – seven short days later –the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival just down the strip resulted in 58 fatalities and 500 wounded. The horrific images of the crowd of music lovers being shot and killed rocked me to my core.

As details emerged, I learned that the gunman had first considered striking the festival I attended. That meant that I could have been one of the innocent people caught up in that massacre.

“It could have been me,” I told myself – and have continued telling myself ever since. In 2017, I had a really hard time processing the tragedy of that mass shooting, and I am still sad, shocked and scared that it came so close to me.

Time to do something

I couldn’t just be upset and sit idle anymore, so I’ve looked for a way to participate. I joined SD4GVP and have learned a lot about the issues, the facts, the initiatives and ways to get involved.

At my first event, I attended a gun buyback event and handed out information on safe gun storage to people who were selling their firearms. I was surprised at how open people can be to talking about guns and safety in our communities.

This year, I marched in the San Diego Pride parade and staffed the SD4GVP booth at the Pride Festival. The day restored my faith that we can make progress one conversation at a time by listening, learning, sharing and advocating.

Change can be a frustratingly slow process, but I feel better knowing I can be part of making a difference.

Michelle Makowski is a volunteer with SD4GVP. She works on community events and internship coordination.

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