Eleven years ago, at 11 o’clock in the morning in sunny Granada Hills, California, a man who professed to want to kill Jews brandished an Uzi assault rifle at the North Valley Jewish Community Center (JCC) and shot a five-year-old boy, two six-year-old boys, a 16-year-old camp counselor, and a 68-year-old receptionist. He then fled and later killed a postal worker before surrendering.
Buford O. Furrow fired 70 shots at the JCC. He was a leader in the Aryan Nation movement and had been in and out of jail and psychiatric hospitals for a long time before his assault. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 110 years in prison with no chance of parole.
Furrow purchased guns from a so-called “private” seller at a gun show in Washington State, and thus was not subjected to a Brady criminal background check. Mindy Finkelstein, the camp counselor who was 16 when she was shot at the JCC and still lives in California, says closing that loophole is long overdue.
“My life changed forever on August 10, 1999, when as a 16-year-old camp counselor, I was shot twice by a semi-automatic gun held by a Neo-Nazi madman who had easy access to guns at gun shows,” Finkelstein said. “I am troubled that we have yet to close the loophole in America’s gun laws that give people like the man who shot me, a parolee and criminally insane, easy access to guns.
“My best wishes go out to all the survivors of that shooting and to the family of Joseph Santos Ileto, the man who lost his life shortly after the shooter left the Jewish Community Center. We can do better in this country than we are doing to combat gun violence,” Finkelstein added.
The incident drew television cameras that broadcast live, to a shocked nation, scenes of JCC workers and police hurrying small children to safety.
New Jersey resident Donna Dees-Thomases saw the news coverage that day and was inspired to organize the Million Mom March, an event in Washington, D.C., in May 2000 that drew the largest crowd ever assembled to push for tougher gun laws.
“This was no daisy chain of happy, innocent children who were blissfully unaware of the evil in the world, safe on the grounds of their camp — this was a string of survivors being led away from a death trap,” Dees-Thomases wrote in her memoir, Looking for a Few Good Moms. “And those children could have been mine.”
The event gave birth to an organization with the same name, which merged with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001. Million Mom March and Brady Campaign chapter activists nationwide have pressed for stronger laws to keep dangerous people from having access to dangerous guns. Closing the gun show loophole is one of the organization’s top goals.
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As the nation’s largest, nonpartisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign, with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, works to enact and enforce sensible gun laws, regulations, and public policies. The Brady Campaign is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities.