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Las Vegas shooting survivor Erica Keuter: You do not want the next mass shooting to take place here in Rhode Island



The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on a series of bills concerning guns Tuesday evening. Gun safety advocacy groups Moms Demand Action and the Rhode Island Coalition Against Gun Violence (RICAGV) are particularly interested in three bills. One would ban semi-automatic assault weapons, one would ban high capacity magazines, and the third would ban the possession of firearms in and around schools.

There was plenty of testimony on both sides of the issue in the first four hours or so, but by far the most arresting and dramatic testimony came from Erica Keuter, and East Greenwich resident and a survivor of the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. Keuter is a member of Everytown Survivor Network and a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America.

“My name is Erica Keuter… I live in East Greenwich and I am a survivor of the deadliest mass shooting in US history. On October 1, 2017, I was having a wonderful time listening to country music with friends at Route 91 Country Music Festival in Las Vegas when a lone gunman fired more than 1100 rounds from his hotel room on the 32nd floor. He killed 58 people and 851 people were physically injured all within 11 minutes.

“He had numerous high capacity magazines capable of holding 100 rounds a piece. All these weapons were legally purchased. We were sitting ducks and he just took aim. When we first heard the gunfire, we were not sure what it was until people were hit with bullets and the yelling and screaming began.

“I dove for the ground and my husband dove on top of me to shield me from bullets in hopes that one of us would make it home to our girls. We felt the blast of the bullets as they whizzed by us. When I looked up, I saw people who were shot laying all around me, including our dear friend.

“I watched as he gasped for air and his wife frantically searching for his inhaler, and him telling her to run, she needed to get to her daughter.

“I saw people trying to be revived as they laid motionless and I saw so much blood. I heard screaming and crying and smelled gunpowder and saw the carnage that one person can do with these firearms, all of which were legally owned.

“One minute we were singing and dancing and the next, we were trying to survive.

“My friend who was shot spent 17 days in the hospital. The bullet shattered his rib cage, and that is what saved his life, because the bullet came so close to vital organs. He is fortunate to be alive, but will live the rest of his life with bullet fragments in his body as a constant reminder of that night.

“My husband and I have two beautiful young children that we need to be present for. We’ve been in therapy since we have returned home. I still fear large crowds. Enjoying Fourth of July fireworks is a thing of the past. And there are days when these visions come back and I just sit down and cry.

“Every time there is a mass shooting, it is a setback in my healing. Unfortunately, mass shootings are becoming more widespread and are occurring with greater frequency leaving in their wake thousands of lives that are forever changed.

“The fear of being in a public place with the potential of someone to start shooting is our reality now in this country. No where, not movies, not theaters, not churches, not schools, nowhere is safe. Weapons, such as military style assault weapons and high capacity magazines are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible.

“Mass shootings that involve the use of high capacity magazines result in twice as many fatalities and 14 times as many injuries on average, compared to those that did not. These weapons and dangerous accessories do not belong here in our civilized society.

“As I continue to struggle with the horror of that night, I know that someone else will be the victim of a mass shooting, just like me, probably this week. No one among us should be so naive to think we are exempt from gun violence. If you can take one thing away from my experience, it’s that gun violence can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone.

“Please help me fight this senseless violence by passing these three bills, H5741, H5739 and H5762 out of the committee. Please trust me when I say that you do not want the next mass shooting to take place here in Rhode Island with a legally purchased military style assault weapon and large capacity magazines.”

Here is the rest of the testimony from the first four hours of the House Judiciary Committee hearings last night:

Members of Moms Demand wait outside the hearing room

Below is a list of the bills before the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday evening, with the position of RICAGV on each:

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Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.