Following is the text of the remarks I had planned to make today to the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee. I was told to prepare to speak for about 5 minutes. When I got to the podium, I was allowed 3 minutes (so was almost everyone else, not claiming unfairness there). If I can find a link to the archived testimony for today I’ll post it. I had to edit on the fly.
Good Afternoon. Thank you Chairman Gould and Senators of the Judiciary Committee for taking the time to allow me to speak to you today.
My name is Jennifer Longdon. I am a registered voter and I live in Maricopa County. I am the mother of a second year ASU student who lives at the Taylor Place dorm in downtown Phoenix. I am also a gun owner and a survivor of gun violence. Senators, I oppose SB 1474.
For many here today, this is a theoretical discussion of what they THINK they would or could do if faced with sudden gun violence. Seven years ago my fiancé and I both sustained life-altering injuries in a random attack that has never been solved. The sort of unexpected, random violence that this bill purports to protect our college students, my own son, from experiencing.
This is not a theoretical discussion for me Senators. I live it. I have “skin in the game.”
On November 15, 2004, my fiancé, David and I were both injured by five random bullets as we drove to a restaurant for a quick dinner. It was our anniversary. I was shot in the back and paralyzed from the middle of my chest down. David, was shot three times, one of those bullets transected his brain leaving him blind, unable to smell and with serious cognitive injuries. A fragment of that bullet still rests behind his right eye. Neither of us were expected to live the night of our shooting. We both coded multiple times.
Senators, you already know all too well about the effects of traumatic brain injury caused by a gunshot wound to the head. That night, I lost my life as I knew it, my career and ultimately the love of my life.
We were armed. We had just returned from vacation and David was transporting his handgun from secure storage at his place of business back to our home. We were armed and David was trained in the use of that firearm yet it happened so fast, he never had a chance to fire a shot. The first thing he did was save my life by throwing his body over mine. Neither of us panicked. Both of us were professional martial arts instructors, and David was a four-time world champion. We had both trained for years to react quickly to violence. David reached for that gun but was unable to use it. I reached for my cell phone and dialed 911. If David, with his training, conditioning and superior reflexes was unable to react quickly enough to save our lives, how would a sleepy student react faster?
In that moment when bullets are flying and adrenaline and fear are pumping, it is sheer hubris to believe that the average person will be able to act with speed and clarity and discernment to a situation that is over before it’s started. To have compounded our own tragedy by firing back would have done nothing but put all the bystanders in that parking lot and restaurant in jeopardy.
Having lived through a random attack, I agree with Law Enforcement that armed but untrained citizens pose their own unique public safety hazard. I believe you have statements from law enforcement agencies opposing this legislation.
Further, as a parent of a college student, and now as a person with disability that has limited my income, we’re already struggling with tuition. The lockers and security needed to comply with this bill have a cost associated with them that amounts to an unfunded mandate that will place the burden squarely on students, or more likely parents, in the form of tuition hikes. Stakeholder groups are opposed to this bill. You’re forcing us to pay for a provision we overwhelmingly have not asked you to provide. My family stands one more tuition increase from my son potentially being forced to leave school. This cost, could tip us over that edge.
I reject the claims that the proliferation of guns on campus would protect students but instead I argue would place them at greater risk of gun violence, either intentional or accidental. I would argue that the tragic shootings we have seen on campuses are a result of the ease with which the shooters were able to obtain weapons. Again, I am speaking as a gun owner here.
College is a time of youthful indiscretion. As a parent I sometimes worry about this heady new freedom that comes with college life. Up until now, I’ve considered my son’s biggest risk to be his first hangover or an ill-advised tattoo. Our children’s’ biggest worries away at college should be their GPA or parents finding a link to their facebook pictures from spring break. Not the nagging knowledge that their binge drinking roommate has a gun.
It sends chills up my spine, well, the part that still works, to think that my son’s life could be forever altered, as mine was; but his by some random student who mixed alcohol and youth with his or her shiny new gun purchased on whim simply because it was allowed on campus.
Since I began to prepare for this afternoon, I’ve been haunted by one particular memory from my shooting. It was my second day in the ICU and a friend was brushing my hair. Her demeanor changed and she became –evasive. I pushed her to tell me what she was so obviously holding back. Turns out she was picking bits of David’s brain and skull out of my hair and didn’t want to tell me. David’s dried blood was still crusted in the folds of my ears and the back of my neck. She got a nurse and in spite of my unstable condition, together they scrubbed me down and removed the last vestiges of his blood and tissue from my body. This is NOT a memory that belongs in anyone’s head. It’s certainly not a college-worthy memory.
Please, Senators, I BEG you, don’t do this. Please do not forward SB1474 for a vote.
Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.