She takes photos of survivors of gun violence and hopes they’ll change your mind.
Laura’s soon-to-be ex-husband stood over her body for nearly half an hour before dialing 911.
The husband, a former Marine and police officer, had fired a shotgun into Laura’s stomach from point-blank range. On the ground and beginning to bleed out, Laura begged him to call for help. When it finally came, she was given a 1% chance of survival. Luckily, she pulled through.
Her story, and the stories of 100 other people across the U.S., are featured in a new book chronicling survivors of gun violence.
The book, appropriately titled "SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America," is the work of New York-based photographer Kathy Shorr, who was inspired by her own brush with gun violence. Years ago, Shorr was at home when two armed men broke in to rob her, holding her and her daughter at gunpoint. It’s an experience that, understandably, stuck with her.
"It’s very hard to describe [how it feels] when somebody has your life in their hands and you’re not sure what they’re gonna do," she says.
The U.S. has a problem with gun violence — that much is sure. Solutions, on the other hand, are a far more complicated issue.
Shorr thinks there are few people more qualified to speak up on the topic of gun violence than those we so often forget: the survivors.
"We don’t really hear about them. The people that are in tragedies, they kind of have to just go on with their lives, and they don’t really get too much attention or sympathy from people," she says, adding that survivors are expected to feel lucky and the lasting effects are overlooked.
Gun violence and domestic violence are inextricably linked, and many of the people Shorr photographed for her book are proof of that.
While her project features survivors of gun violence from a wide range of backgrounds in a wide range of circumstances, there’s one area where representation is especially appreciated: cases involving domestic violence. It’s tragic just how routine so many of the situations can be, and how Shorr expertly captures the realities of this aftermath.
Janine, a corrections officer in New York, had told her husband, a captain with the Corrections Department, that she wanted a divorce. In response, he shot her.
In 1999, Marlys, a woman from Canoga Park, California, was shot through the heart by her husband of 41 years.
More than half of U.S. women who die by gun violence are killed by their partners or ex-partners.
It’s a fact that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, and it is one of the main reasons people urging women in abusive relationships to "just leave" may not fully understand the risks that come with it.
Karen Smith was murdered by her husband in San Bernardino, California. Her death caught the attention of national media for a number of reasons: It happened at a school, there were other victims, and San Bernardino has become synonymous with the 2015 terrorist attack. But sadly, there are hundreds more equally heartbreaking stories just like Smith’s that we don’t hear about.
According to an Associated Press analysis, an average of 760 Americans are shot and killed by current or former partners each year.
In 2008, 15-year-old Janelle was shot in the groin by her 17-year-old boyfriend. As a result, she is unable to have children.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, thinks steps need to be taken to prevent domestic abusers from obtaining guns.
She’s part of a growing movement of volunteers made up of mothers, gun owners, and, yes, survivors of gun violence who are pushing for sensible gun safety measures.
"When it comes to gun violence against women, the United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world," says Watts. "In fact, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman will be killed and most mass shootings in the U.S. are related to domestic or family violence."
As for Shorr, she hopes that everyone, regardless of age, race, background, or location, can relate to her work in one way or another. After that, it’s time to take action.
"A lot of people are shot in their home or their car — the gym, church, shopping centers, movie theaters," she says. "I thought if I photographed people where they were shot, that if there was a person looking at the project and couldn’t identify with any of the 101 survivors, that perhaps they’d be able to to identify with [a location]."
Hopefully, her work will inspire people to learn more about gun violence (and its connection to domestic violence) and take action on bringing it to an end. A good place to start is by checking out Shorr’s book (published by powerHouse and available on Amazon) or by looking at the resources put out by organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.