‘I was coming to terms with dying’: Survivors of shootings give Supreme Court justices firsthand account of their experiences

Survivors of shootings are giving the Supreme Court justices a first hand account of their experiences in a brief filed Tuesday in a case that could impact concealed carry and Second Amendment laws across the country.

In hopes of influencing the court’s decision on a New York concealed carry law, the “friend of the court” brief shares the stories of eight people whose lives have been directly affected by gun violence. It was filed by law firm Hogan Lovells for March For Our Lives — the youth-led gun violence prevention organization founded by students following the 2018 deadly school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In part, the brief includes the detailed experience of Samantha Mayor, who was shot in the knee.

According to the brief, Mayor, who was 16-years-old and a junior at the time, was at first, “dazed and in disbelief,” and she did not realize she had been shot until her teacher called to report the number of students who had been injured in her classroom.

Only then did Mayor “look down, notice a hole in her leggings, and realize that she had been shot. Blood poured out of the hole in her kneecap and onto the tiled floor,” the brief says.

“I started telling myself that it was okay. I was coming to terms with dying,” Mayor said in the brief, describing the aftermath of the shooting.

Mayor’s narrative, along with the seven other detailed stories, is meant to shed light on the potential ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision, including the way the court’s ruling could directly impact the lives of young Americans.

The filing, which was written in part by March For Our Lives’ youth judicial advocacy team, comes as the United States faces a spike in gun violence, with 2021 on pace to be the worst year in decades.

The brief also includes the experiences of two recent survivors: Victoria Gwynn, who at 19, was shot while gathering with friends at a park in Louisville, Kentucky, in June and Maggie Montoya, who witnessed and survived the mass shooting that killed 10 at a King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado, in March.

Gwynn described the scene as, “Just rapid bullets. Everyone was screaming.”

Although she survived the incident, Gwynn’s best friend did not. Gwynn’s own brother had also previously died by gun violence in 2019.

“You can see someone, talk to someone, and in a minute, they are not here anymore. You have to cherish every moment you have with the people you love,” Gwynn said.

For her part, Montoya said that prior to the shooting at King Soopers — where she was working at the time — she had never seen anyone killed. But on that day, she witnessed and walked past her coworker’s dead body.

“She was my age, and I think how easily it could have been me,” Montoya said in the brief, adding that she has had a heightened sense of fear since that day.

“When you don’t feel safe, you can’t focus on anything else in your life,” she said.

Along with stories from Mayor, Gwynn and Montoya, the brief also describes the experiences of Elimar Depaula, who was paralyzed below the waist after being shot in 2019, Selene San Felice, a survivor of the 2018 shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, DeAndra Dycus, whose son was shot in 2014, and Michigan state Sen. Dayna Polehanki, who was in the Michigan state capitol building in 2020, when armed protesters poured into the building.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for November 3.

Biden administration asks to uphold NY law too

The Biden administration also on Tuesday urged the court to uphold the New York restrictions, saying that while the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, the right is “not absolute.”

In 2008, the court held for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms at home for self-defense. Except for a follow-up decision two years later, the justices have largely stayed away from the issue.

“New York’s longstanding proper-cause requirement does not violate the Second Amendment,” Acting Solicitor General Brian Fletcher told the justices.

“For centuries, lawmakers have protected the public by reasonably regulating such matters as who may possess arms, where they may be taken, and how they may be manufactured, transported, sold, stored, and carried,” Fletcher said.

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