My only child, my daughter Ryanne, was the youngest of the five students slain in the mass shooting at Northern Illinois University (NIU) on February 14, 2008. I remember sobbing hysterically nearly ten months earlier while watching the news coverage about the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. I don’t know if it was a premonition or just understandable parental fretting given the circumstances, but I was more fearful than ever for my daughter’s safety after what happened in Blacksburg.
I found out how much the gunmen in our tragedy and in the Virginia Tech tragedy had in common. Both were mentally ill and both had nevertheless purchased their firearms LEGALLY.
— Mary Kay Mace
In the aftermath of the shooting at NIU, I found out how much the gunmen in our tragedy and in the Virginia Tech tragedy had in common. Both were mentally ill and both had nevertheless purchased their firearms LEGALLY. I couldn’t resolve the cognitive dissonance that caused in my grief-ravaged brain. As a result, I have become involved in publicly advocating for common sense gun legislation, particularly stressing the need to get the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) updated with all of the pertinent records of prohibited purchasers. Background checks can be only as effective as the information in the database accessed to complete them. According to the report “Fatal Gaps” on the Mayors Against Illegal Guns website, millions of records are missing from NICS.
In addition to updating NICS with all pertinent records, we must enact legislation requiring background checks for ALL gun purchases – including private sales, online sales, and those at gun shows. I also favor banning assault weapons and large capacity ammunition clips. These types of weaponry were designed for military use and have no application for civilians other than to kill as many people as quickly as possible.
Since the NIU shooting, I have been rocked back on my heels with every subsequent shooting. We’ve had Binghampton, Fort Hood, Tucson, Aurora, the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, Oikos University, and Newtown. That’s by no means a comprehensive list (I omitted one of the worst mass shootings ever, the 2011 attack in Norway, because it neither happened here or because of the misinterpretation of our 2nd Amendment, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t shed a ton of tears about it).
It’s crazy that we keep allowing our legislators to be purchased by the NRA leadership. It’s crazy that the NRA leadership doesn’t represent the policy positions of the majority of its membership. It’s crazy that innocent human lives continue to be sacrificed so that gun manufacturers can continue to rake in their profits with immunity from civil litigation. “Crazy” is what took my beautiful daughter from me. I implore everyone, as a mother who misses her daughter more than anyone can possibly imagine – let’s all fight for sane gun safety measures.
— Mary Kay Mace