Eighteen years ago today, my daughter Laura was murdered while home on winter break from college. Laura was filling in as a receptionist at a behavioral health clinic when a person with severe mental illness opened fire and shot Laura four times, killing her instantly.
At age nineteen Laura was an outstanding student with extraordinary capability. The world was diminished by the loss of my daughter, an incredible young woman.
My life was turned upside-down that day. At first I was in shock. My grief was profound. A parent never expects to outlive their child. I needed to understand how and why I lost my daughter. Who was this person who killed her? What was the world without her?
My daughter’s shooter was quickly apprehended and later found not guilty by reason of insanity. In a way- his punishment was the worst imaginable. He received treatment and improved enough to understand what he had done. He felt regret. But what if this man had received treatment before my daughter was killed?
That question haunted me and moved me to take action. It was my way of dealing with the grief. It was too late for my daughter, but it wasn’t too late to fix the system that contributed to her death. It wasn’t too late to make sure no other parent lost a child this way. Laura’s Law was the first piece of legislation that my husband and I helped pass to allow for court-ordered outpatient treatment for people with severe, untreated mental illness.
Sharing Laura’s story and fighting for change has helped me make sense of a world that had gone awry. Since then I have helped get over 60 firearm bills enacted into law.
Along the way I have met many survivors and families impacted by gun violence that have been moved to the fight for life-saving laws in a similar way. Sarah Brady herself was changed forever the day her husband Jim was shot. She committed herself to passing federal legislation to require a background check prior to the purchase of a handgun. And she succeeded.
Moving on and making sense of grief can seem like an insurmountable challenge, but taking my pain and channeling it into action has made each day a little easier. Laura always wanted to make a positive difference in the world, and now, I know she has.