Guest Opinion | There is a community for gun violence survivors

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America provides a community for those who’ve been affected by gun violence.


Reba Zatz

Members of Moms Demand Action march during the 2019 Homecoming Parade on Oct. 18 in Downtown Iowa City.

Throughout the pandemic, our community has experienced many preventable tragedies. While the lives lost due to COVID-19 have been tragic, I’m actually talking about the increase in gun violence. Feb. 1 – 7 is National Gun Violence Survivors Week. This week marks the approximate time that gun deaths in the U.S. surpassed the number of gun deaths experienced by peer countries in an entire calendar year.

In my neighborhood, there have been multiple deaths and injuries due to gun violence. Every time I hear of one, I’ve sat with the knowledge that many would be joining a group they didn’t want to be part of: gun violence survivors. Every person that has witnessed an act of gun violence, has been threatened or wounded with a gun, has someone they know and cared for wounded or killed from gun homicides, gun suicides, domestic violence involving a gun and unintentional shootings, becomes a gun violence survivor.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America provides connection and community to survivors of gun violence. Many of the volunteers in the local Johnson County group, including myself, are survivors of gun violence. The grief and trauma experienced from gun violence isn’t something you get over.

It’s something you live with. I’ve found comfort volunteering with those who truly understand what gun violence is, what it does, and what it leaves behind. These volunteers know because everything they do is centered on the voice of the survivor.

When my nephew died by gun suicide, I didn’t know that made me a survivor until many years later when I began volunteering with Moms Demand Action. Since then, I’ve seen how important it is for survivors to share their stories.

I’ve tried to follow the example of other survivors by raising awareness and educating the public and policymakers about the realities of gun violence. It’s not easy, but I share my story publicly because I know there are many survivors who cannot.

Chanel Miller, who is also a survivor of gun violence, wrote in her memoir, Know My Name, “The journey will be longer than you imagined. Trauma will find you again and again. Do not become the ones that hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure. Fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life you deserve safety, joy, and freedom.”

I’ll add, you deserve a life free from gun violence. When you’re ready, text “SURVIVOR” to 644-33 and join us.

-Temple Hiatt, Johnson County Local Group Lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

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