Texas disability groups want a voice at the table in gun debate

April 23, 2018 | By | Reply More

Susan Nelson, author and public speaker on brain injury awareness and gun safety, at her home in Austin. Nelson survived a point blank range gunshot to the head in 1993. (Gabriel C. Perez/KUT)

A disability rights group in Texas sent out a survey last month, trying to figure out how many of its members became disabled due to gun violence. The group, ADAPT of Texas, said it’s an effort to collect data that will help inform Texas lawmakers on how they legislate guns.

Bob Kafka is an organizer with ADAPT and said that when gun violence happens, particularly mass shootings, the public tends to have a pretty limited discussion about what happens to the victims.

Susan Nelson was one of those victims. About 25 years ago, she was having dinner at a friend’s house. Her friend had a gun.

“It was registered and everything,” she said of her friend’s firearm.

There was also a young man there that night. He’d been thrown out of his parents’ house and seemed unstable. He found the gun and confronted both Nelson and her friend, saying he was going to rob and then kill them. Nelson said he then shot her in her left shoulder.

“I stood up to turn to run and was shot in the back of the head,” she said. “My friend was as well, and that’s the last part I remember from the shooting. My friend died in flight to the hospital, and I woke from a coma two weeks later.”

She was 29 and had to start her life all over.

“I was paralyzed,” she said. “I could barely read and write. My vision was really bad, so I had to spend the next seven months in therapy relearning everything and working really, really hard.”

This story is part of a partnership that includes KUT, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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