'No one deserves to experience this': Cincinnati shooting survivor urges people to act

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Posted at 6:07 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 18:07:06-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Hours after the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Whitney Austin posted an emotional video on social media.

"Our American kids - our innocent kids - do not deserve to go to school and be shot," Austin said tearfully.

Austin is a survivor herself. In 2018, she was shot 12 times when a gunman opened fire at the Fifth Third Bank Headquarters in Cincinnati.

To survive, she played dead. Austin recalls being angry with herself at that moment for not doing something to prevent shootings like the one happening around her.

When she realized she was going to survive, she knew she would take action.

"I almost immediately thought 'thank you, God, thank you for this amazing gift' and I have to do something about this because no one deserves to experience this," Austin said.

Since then, Austin has co-founded Whitney/Strong, a group of "gun violence survivors, gun owners, and advocates who are concerned about lives lost to all forms of gun violence."

The group advocates for "common ground solutions" like laws to help temporarily remove guns from people experiencing a crisis.

"When you see that crisis moment, you know - we're on the brink, a crisis moment is about the erupt - we need a legal path to be able to temporarily transfer that firearm, to make sure they don't have access to one of the most lethal means and then, help get them the help that they need," explained Austin.

"It could've made a difference in my shooting and many other mass shootings," she added.

Austin said the shooting in Texas was devastating to learn about.

"I just collapsed, squat down on my knees, and started to cry," said Austin.

But in her video, Austin encourages people to channel those feelings and emotions into a push for change. Whitney/Strong will be traveling to Washington D.C. in June for meetings with members of the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and they want to represent peoples' voices in those meetings.

"If you're feeling upset right now - in the way that I'm feeling upset right now - you need to share the way you feel," Austin said in the video. "On our website, we have a form. Just take a little minute, write how you feel about these moments and why it's so important that Congress finally comes together to pass policies that can reduce violence."

"If I can show them that thousands of people within their districts are in support of crisis aversion and rights retention or in support of Congress coming together to find common ground solutions, then that matters," Austin said. "Then, they listen."