Mass shooting survivor Whitney Austin fights for state ‘Red Flag’ law
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Three people were killed in 2018 when a gunman went on a rampage at Cincinnati’s Fifth-Third Bank.
Whitney Austin could have easily been the fourth.
She was shot 12 times, but none of the bullets struck a vital organ or artery and Austin emerged from that horrible moment, not just as a survivor, but as an activist as well.
“I was shot 12 times and I’ll never forget that feeling I had when I was stuck in the revolving door,” Austin said. “Thinking I’ve been involved in a mass shooting and I’ve done nothing, absolutely nothing to prevent it. I almost felt in a way I was deserving of being involved in that mass shooting.”
Just five months after she was wounded, Austin has formed a non-profit called Whitney/Strong. The website describes the organization as “dedicated to reducing gun violence by promoting, advocating and supporting responsible gun ownership.
Now with her eyes on state lawmakers, Austin is working to legalize Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or what is commonly called a Red Flag Law.
“We feel very strongly there is a way to reduce the number of gun deaths and do it in a bipartisan way,” Austin said.
Extreme Risk Protection Orders allow guns to be taken away from someone deemed potentially violent. Endorsed by President Donald Trump, 13 states have them, including eight enacted in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting.
But Austin said she is not sure a Red Flag Law would have saved her in Cincinnati.
“I don’t think I can say that with confidence," she said. "There is evidence that my shooter had family in Cincinnati, but absolutely no evidence that shows they were aware he was exhibiting any dangerous behavior.”
But there were warning signs in the case of the deadly shooting at the Jeffersontown Kroger that Austin said possibly could have been Red Flagged.
Other states also report Red Flag laws have reduced the number of suicides.
A Red Flag bill was introduced Friday in the Kentucky Senate by Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville).
If the bipartisan support they need doesn’t materialize this session, Austin said the work will continue.
Austin is currently recovering from her third surgery after the shooting.
“I was unable to do ‘thumbs-up’ with my left thumb, and so we determined that a tendon ruptured and we needed to do a tendon transfer,” Austin said. “And I also had a nerve ruptured which was causing me a lot of nerve pain. I’ve got about six months of taking it easy with this hand before it will be up and running again.”
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