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Virginia Tech survivor celebrates with Cease Fire as firearm offender registry signed into law

Kristina Anderson shown here being carried by officers was one of the few survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting. (AP Photo/file)

You don’t have to register your gun in Washington, but people who commit gun crimes could be required to register themselves.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure to create a central registry to track firearm offenders in Washington state.

Under the new law, judges may require people convicted of gun offenses to register as firearm offenders. The registrants must keep their information up to date and the requirement to register continues for four years.

Unlike sex offenders, the registry would be maintained by the Washington State Patrol and would be accessible by law enforcement officers but would not be available to the public.

The bill was one of the rare legislative victories for Washington Cease Fire, which held its annual luncheon Wednesday. Rep. Mike Hope (R-Lake Stevens), who sponsored the bill, was there to receive an award from the group, and also in attendance, as the Keynote speaker, was a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre.

Survivor Kristina Anderson recounted the day six years ago that a gunman burst into her classroom.

Of the 18 people in that class, only six got out alive. She was one of them, but she was shot three times: in the back, the foot, and the butt, as she put it.

She keeps a picture of a front page newspaper photo showing her being carried out of the building.

I asked her the question the NRA always asks: “Did you at any point say, ‘Man if I only had a weapon, I could stop this right now?'”

“Not at all,” said Anderson. “It happened so fast and so quickly that you don’t even have a chance to react or sometimes even take cover, and to think that you would have the capacity to take out your firearm and put it in a position you could aim well is absolutely incredible.

“And I get it, I get the fact that people want to have a way to empower themselves and fight back, but the way that active shooter situations work, it just doesn’t play out that way. One person in our entire classroom called 911. They had capacity to dial that phone.”

Anderson said shock takes over and you’re so afraid.

“There’s no warning. There’s not even time to really think about how you would aim your weapon. That I think is ludicrous,” she says. “I think the things that would happen, just the consequences by allowing more guns naturally, would far outweigh the potential of one shooting being averted, which actually has never happened or been successful in the past anyways.”

I commented to her that she has a remarkably very sunny disposition for someone that has been through what she went through.

“You have to,” she said. “Not every day is easy. You know when you hear about things like Newtown.”

She said being able to talk about it and seeking counseling was very important, but it never fully goes away.

“People ask me all the time, ‘How long did it take you to get over this?’ You never get over this thing. It never goes away, but you deal with it in little chunks. I think confronting it really head on. I cried in therapy for the first year every single session. It wasn’t fun. I was always late. Now, I’m on time, I’m prepared. It’s helped me. I’ve worked through it.”

Also stepping out as a survivor with Cease Fire has been important to her. I asked if there was a penalty to pay for that.

“A little bit. I’m not too involved outside of Cease Fire with the gun control issues. Other survivors I think do get a little bit more attention in a negative way.

“The biggest thing is that the push back from the NRA, because they are so vocal and so loud, is pretty strong. So not only do you take it as a hit against the issues, you take it as a personal offense because you say ‘I knew these people that died and here you are just not caring at all.’ So it needs a little bit more of personal resilience (…) to get past that, but it’s worth it in the end.”

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