Opinion: Ending the collective trauma of gun violence

Opinion: Ending the collective trauma of gun violence

By Emily Busch

February 29, 2024

In this op-ed, Emily Busch advocates for proactive measures and shares how her experience as a mother of a school shooting survivor has inspired her to run for office.

It was just a normal fall day when a friend texted me about my son, Andrew. The message was one we all fear. 

She asked if I had heard about the active shooter situation at his school. 

When I got a hold of Andrew, he told me not to worry – that it was just a drill. But he already knew it wasn’t a drill. 

My 14-year-old was trying to protect me from the truth. As a parent, it’s our job to keep our kids safe — not the other way around. I needed to get to my son.

Emergency vehicles filled the streets, turning a four-minute drive into the longest 20 minutes of my life. It’s a drive I wish upon no one as the very worst thoughts go through your mind, and every minute feels like an eternity.

Andrew was safe when I got to him, but I knew he would never be the same. His orchestra teacher, someone I consider a hero, hid his class in an empty room and then rushed them out the back door where they ran to nearby Meijer, to safety.

It is a horrifying, stark reality that, for most, it is impossible to discern which mass shooting event my son survived. These tragedies, like the one at Oxford High School on November 30, 2021, have become so commonplace in our country that they blend together, receiving less and less attention as time goes on.

Just 14 months after the shooting at Oxford, 50 of those same students and one Sandy Hook survivor locked down for the second time at Michigan State University. We should all be outraged, and yet, the sheer frequency has rendered us increasingly numb. 

I am deeply lucky and endlessly grateful that my son came home that day, but that was not the case for other Oxford High School parents.

In just 9 minutes, 32 shots were fired, 7 people wounded, and 4 children murdered. No parent ought to experience the unimaginable, preventable loss of their child. 

That night, I googled “How to prevent a school shooting…” needing to do something. I went to the next school board meeting. I did what moms do: rolled up my sleeves and went right to work. 

In the year after the shooting, zero bills were passed to fix the problem. Thanks to an historic, first-in-a-generation majority, Michigan Democrats are now taking action in Lansing at the state level — but Washington continues to fail us. 

Before the shooting at Andrew’s school, I never thought about running for office. But I could no longer sit on the sidelines. That’s why I’m running for Congress.

Our country’s gun violence epidemic continues to impact communities of all sizes nationwide thanks to the gun lobby’s chokehold on federal lawmakers. We can’t keep asking our kids to just be brave while putting them in harm’s way each time they walk into school.

It’s long past time that we prioritize proactive measures over reactive measures, and fight for change that addresses the root of the gun violence epidemic, instead of reacting to the aftermath.

Closing the Charleston Loophole, which allows dangerous people to purchase weapons of war without a background check, implementing waiting periods, and putting magazine capacity limits in place are straightforward steps towards making our communities safer. Michigan’s blueprint for common-sense reform –background checks on every firearm sale, secure storage, and keeping firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill and people in crisis– are the minimum measures we need at the federal level.

Here in Southeastern Michigan, voters I talk to are sick and tired of the excuses and hand wringing from politicians in Washington. Everyday, I hear from people about their state of daily fear as they go about their lives. 

If we’re at a volleyball tournament with hundreds of local kids, we’re thinking about it. 

If we’re at a concert or movie theater, we’re thinking about it. 

If we’re at the grocery store, we’re thinking about it. 

This is a choice we’ve made as a country, but it doesn’t have to be this way. 

The regularity of such mass casualty events only heightens the collective stress. 

It’s been nearly two years since 19 students and two teachers were killed at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX. 

Six years since 17 students and staff were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, FL on Valentine’s Day. 

11 years since 26 first graders and teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.

13 years since Congresswoman Gabby Giffords nearly lost her life at a constituent services event in Tucson, AZ. 

We can barely keep track of anniversaries because new ones keep getting added to the calendar.

This is a deeply emotional and personal fight for me, and I am honored to have the support of gun safety advocates, including former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her organization Giffords PAC, Everytown for Gun Safety, Brady PAC, Ban Assault Weapons Now, and survivors including Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg, in this race.

They know the horror of the gun violence epidemic firsthand — and that this does not have to be our normal. 

If we don’t step up and demand an end to the trauma, who will?


  • Emily Busch

    Emily Busch is a gun safety advocate, mom of a school shooting survivor, and candidate for Congress in Michigan's 10th District. She is among the first federal candidates in the country to earn GIFFORDS' and Everytown's endorsement. To learn more, please visit EmilyForMichigan.com.

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