When Patricia Maisch, a survivor of the January 2011 shootings in Tucson, turned on the news last Friday morning to see the horrified faces in the aftermath of the Aurora massacre, she was transported back to that sunny day last winter when she lay motionless on the ground, wondering how it would feel when a bullet pierced her chest.
“That’s when Colonel Badger and Roger Salzgeber knocked the shooter down essentially on top of me,” Maisch tells The Daily Beast. She was able to maneuver herself onto shooter Jared Lee Loughner’s back and grab his ammunition before pinning his ankles down while others on the scene ran for help.
“When I think about the people in Aurora who were in that dark theater, they had a special form of terror, I’m sure,” she says. “And although each of these incidents have the same unfortunate outcome, I think we all have our own particular set of terrors.”
Badger, a retired U.S. army officer, recalls Loughner pointing a gun at his face. A bullet grazed the back of his head as he hit the ground and, with the help of Roger Salzgeber, Badger tackled the shooter, putting him in a chokehold.
Maisch and Badger are among more than 14 survivors and relatives of victims from the shooting in Tucson, when six people were shot dead at a public meeting held by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who have demanded action on gun control from the two presidential candidates in the wake of the latest mass shooting in Aurora. They’ve teamed up with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition to ratchet up pressure on President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney over America’s gun laws. “We remember the kind words that our elected officials had for us. But we have seen their moment of silence stretch into 18 months of inaction,” the group wrote in a full-page print advertisement in Tuesday’s USA Today.
“I strongly support the Second Amendment rights to bear arms,” says Badger, who grew up hunting in South Dakota and supports the NRA. “However, I’m strongly opposed to people who can buy a rifle that will shoot 100 rounds a minute. I think when people do buy guns, the seller or the individual needs to provide a background check.”
The national “Demand a Plan” campaign launched Tuesday invites supporters to sign an online petition calling on both Obama and Romney to “step forward with a substantive plan to end gun violence.” Specifically, the campaign is arguing that background checks be required for all purchases of guns in the U.S. and also pushing for a system that would put criminal and mental health records into that same database so that sellers can be more aware of at-risk people.
“Forty percent of the guns purchased in the U.S. do not require a background check,” says Pam Simon, Rep. Giffords’s former community outreach director, who was shot in the chest and hand during the Tucson shooting. “There are penalties, and we need to put some teeth into those penalties for states that don’t [require one].”
The Tucson shooting victims know they’re fighting an uphill political battle. Arizona Sen. John McCain declined to meet with them, and Congress won’t even approve a prohibition against gun purchases by those on the terrorist watch list.
Simon applauded President Obama’s call in New Orleans on Wednesday for “common sense” gun control.
“We’re also asking that Gov. Romney show some sort of plan,” she says. Romney has remained mum on the subject since the Aurora shootings, and has merely called for the suspect, James Holmes, to be “quickly brought to justice.”
Mayor Bloomberg, an independent, has emerged as the most outspoken voice in politics on gun control since the massacre. A day after the shooting, he called on both presidential candidates to take a harsher stance on controlling guns. “Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it, because this is obviously a problem across the country,” Bloomberg said in a radio interview.
As the Demand a Plan campaign points out, 34 people are killed by guns every day in the U.S., a rate that would amount to a death toll of 48,000 people during a single presidential term term.
“People will say guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But the gun cannot be separated from the perpetrator,” says Maisch, expressing disappointment that Congress refuses to stand up to the gun lobby and the NRA. “I really do think they have a monetary grip on our Congress, and I wish that would change. But I think we can maintain Second Amendment rights and still improve protection against mass and individual murderers.”