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If you are like me, you are probably watched the Sunday morning news shows this week (and every week). This past Sunday, you may have noticed a new DFA TV ad telling the story of John Woods. John met some of the DFA staff at Netroots Nation a few years ago where we first learned about his story. John was a student at VA Tech where his girlfriend and other friends were killed in the mass shooting. Since then, he has been an articulate advocate to reduce gun violence and we want to make sure that his story and others like his are being heard.

More on how to make sure John is being heard, after the fold.

In our conversations with John, we learned how difficult it has been for him and others to be heard. But as the President noted in the State of the Union last week, something changed after Newtown. DFA has always been a place to lift up people who have a story to tell about how policy can change lives. So, I want to take this opportunity to tell you a little more about John, his fight, and why it is so important to take advantage of this moment.

During our interview with him, he told us about that day and how it changed him. In John’s own words, he would rather not have to fight this fight:

“This is not an issue that I would have ever expected that I would be involved with, but I was a student at VA Tech in 2007 and I lost friends in the shooting there. I lost my girlfriend. When something like this happens, you start counting your age all over again. It’s been 5 ½ years since my version of paradise was shattered. I am motivated to work on this issue because I don’t want that to ever have to happen to anyone else, ever again.”
After John left Virginia, he moved to Austin, TX where he is pursuing his doctoral degree in molecular biology at the University of Texas. During his time there as a student, the Texas state legislature proposed a concealed carry bill for schools in response to the mass shootings that have become all too common in the news cycle. When John heard about this, he went to the state house to explain how this bill would not make people safer.

Here’s what he experienced with the legislators:

“At first I thought they were naïve, but even after hearing my story and the story of others who were involved in the VA tech shooting, they persisted. They didn’t understand the factors that contributed to the VA Tech incident, and they really had no interest in learning how to prevent those factors. Gun advocates are attached to an ideological agenda that is centered around selling more guns to a new market they have previously been unable to tap. They are using these events to try to do that.”
(To watch his testimony and here more about his story, watch this ten minute documentary called, “Her name was Max.”)

We know, in spite of what the ideological gun lobby may say, that there are ways to prevent the wrong guns from getting in the wrong hands. In fact, the VA Tech shooter is the perfect example of that. John explains:

“He had been ruled a danger to himself, but the state of Virginia didn’t submit his records to the database. So, when he went to buy the gun, he just filled out the background check form, lied when he checked the box for mental illness, and there was no way to check it. That was the gun he used to shoot my friends.”
That is why it is so critical to take advantage of this moment where the conversation has changed. The gun lobby is powerful, and we should not underestimate them, but we have an opportunity here that may not come again. And we can make a difference if we speak up and hold up survivors like John. John really said it best on why we should do whatever we can to pass policies that can prevent gun violence:
”The best and worst thing about saving lives through prevention is that you never know how many lives you save. These policies won’t prevent 100% of tragedies, but it’s worth it to prevent the ones you can.”
John's story is just one of many and we know that these stories are what will continue to change the conversation about gun safety in America. If you have a story to tell, you can tell us here. We will be sending stories to Senators and making sure they are being heard.

Please help John and all the others who have a story to tell to lift up their voices and make sure this moment doesn’t pass us by without making a change. DFA is advocating for a ban on assault weapons with high capacity magazines and universal background checks. Go to this link to fund John’s ad to help us generate more calls into the Senate in key states. And, if you haven’t already, call your Senator today at 202-224-312

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