The Shooting Never Stops

Gun violence exacts a steep toll on all aspects of life

By Emily K. Cantrell October 3, 2023

Emily Cantrell serves on the foundation board of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility

This article originally appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Seattle magazine.

18We live in a country with more guns than humans. More mass shootings than days in a year. And a significant misconception about how survivors of gun violence can heal and move on with their lives.

The truth is that time does not heal all wounds. And unfortunately, there is no playbook for victims of gun violence, nor is there one for their colleagues or loved ones.

The devastating reality is that all Americans will know a victim of gun violence in their lifetime. Gun violence does not discriminate; it can happen anytime and anywhere. What happens when these survivors are your team members? Your clients? And what if gun violence is carried out in your workplace? Or in your community?

On Oct. 1, 2017, I was listening to the final act of the three-day Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, a festival that 58 people would not return home from, and one that forever changed the lives of thousands of other concertgoers. After surviving what I call a sickening game of millimeters, I flew home unaware that, after this occasion, time would not heal my wounds.

There is a general lack of understanding of the emotional and physical impact gun violence can have on an individual. A study by Everytown for Gun Safety estimates that gun violence costs the American economy $557 billion a year, including long-term medical care, lost wages, and lower worker productivity.

With no playbook to reference, I assumed the best path forward was sticking to routine. Less than 48 hours after the shooting, I returned to work. When I stepped into the elevator, one of our company’s senior leaders asked about my weekend. I didn’t know how to answer this innocent question, but all of a sudden, I felt like everyone needed to know what I had been through. I told my colleague I was in the shooting, and I simultaneously burst into tears. He had no idea how to respond, and I can’t blame him one bit.

I hid in my office and texted my boss to ask her to come by. She and our CEO sent me home and would only let me return once I had a doctor’s note. My doctor told me to take a few days off and then work a week of half days so I could look for a therapist and take care of myself both physically and emotionally. My company assured me I didn’t need to worry about my paycheck.

I was fortunate to receive that response. Even with time off, I struggled to find a therapist and pay my bills, since much of the treatment I received in the weeks, months, and years after the shooting was not covered. So many other survivors lost their jobs when they were unable to return to work, and some are still unemployed today due to their physical or emotional wounds.

Nearly six years after the shooting, the United States faces an epidemic that requires a public health approach in order to end it. As of May 2023, an average of 115 Americans are dying every day from gun violence. Individuals and businesses alike have a moral imperative to end this alarming trend, and a number of corporations are leading the way.

After the 2018 Parkland, Fla., shooting, some of our country’s largest retailers changed their gun sales policies to assume greater responsibility for their impact on human rights and lives. L.L. Bean, Walmart, and Kroger all raised the minimum age for gun sales from 18 to 21 years old. Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style weapons and went so far as to destroy $5 million worth of assault rifles rather than return them to their manufacturers.

Bank of America stopped financing gun manufacturers that make military-style firearms for civilian use. Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA), and ended their discount programs with NRA members. PayPal prohibited businesses from using its service or logo for selling firearms, and Salesforce banned customers that sell 3D-printed guns from using its software.

Whether it’s cutting ties to the NRA, making your business a gun-free zone, or donating to gun violence prevention organizations, there are many ways you and your business can help end this epidemic.

I remember wishing I could wear a large sign that told everyone what I had just been through, and how fragile I was. It hurt to see how quickly the rest of the world moved on, while the country’s newest round of mass shooting survivors was left picking up the pieces and relearning how to function.

Until that playbook is written, know that it’s OK to be uncomfortable talking about gun violence. But please, do your part and help end this epidemic.

Emily K. Cantrell is COO of Provail, a Seattle nonprofit that works with people with disabilities. She also serves on the foundation board of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility.

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