Survivor Stories: Mindy Finkelstein

The United States has an epidemic of gun violence.  Each year, more than 30,000 people are killed by firearms.  Of those, more than half were the result of firearm related suicides.  Discussions about gun control often center on reducing the numbers of firearm related deaths.  Lost in that discussion, however, is that many people have had their lives irrevocably altered by firearms.  They may not have died, but they have been affected by the gun violence in the US.  Here is the story of one such survivor, Mindy Finkelstein:

In August 1999, Finkelstein, 31, was working as a summer camp counselor at a Jewish community center near her home in California's San Fernando Valley when a white supremacist, Buford Furrow Jr.,
entered the building and began firing.

Growing up, I loved every part of being Jewish — it was social, it was such a sense of community. It wasn’t about a belief in God, it was about family, friends and the atmosphere. I’d been going to the Jewish community center since I was four or five, so it was like my second home.

One day I was walking with a camper who was five. We were about to head into the art classroom. I was standing outside the room when Furrow walked in the building and shot me in the right leg. I grabbed the kid next to me and ran into the classroom. We all got outside, but I collapsed. One of the counselors stayed with me. She said, “Play dead if he decides to come back.”

After I was shot, I was immediately thrust into this poster-child role, and I had to quickly learn as much as I could about guns. I went from “I know a gun because it existed in a movie” to “I was shot with a semi-automatic Uzi replica with 9mm bullets.”

I did some advocacy, but it was never my decision. So I decided to take some time away. I wanted to find out how I felt about gun control. So I took a couple of years, and then the Virginia Tech shooting happened [in 2007]. It was one of the first times in a long time that I felt very significant survivors’ guilt. I felt like I could have done something, and I didn’t. It took a toll on me.

There is absolutely no use for guns in places of education. People who say, “If we had guns, this wouldn’t have happened” — a gun isn’t going to prevent anything! More often than not, another tragedy will happen instead.”

(the story of Mindy Finkelstein is part of a series entitled America’s Gun Violence Epidemic by Rolling Stone)
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Survivor Stories: Mindy Finkelstein
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