Crystal Hays endured a 12-month period of shock and horror as the lives of a sister, a son and a nephew were cut short by gun violence.
The Kansas City, Kan., slaying of Natasha Hays, 38, in a 3:45 a.m. drive-by shooting of her home in August 2016 and the ambush shootings of Le’Andrew Vaughn, 17, and his cousin, Adarius Barber, 16, in August 2017 are unsolved homicides.
“All died from gun violence within a year,” Hays said. “It takes a physical and psychological toll on me. It is something that you never get over.”
Hays joined about 200 people at the Capitol on Wednesday to support lobbying efforts by the Kansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action, both a part of Everytown for Gun Safety.
The volunteers pressed state legislators to support a bill creating a court process in which domestic abusers could be ordered to relinquish their firearms to law enforcement officers. The measure introduced by Sen. Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, would strengthen a bipartisan law signed in 2018 by Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer that prohibited domestic abusers from possessing guns.
“We’re asking legislators to support Senate Bill 415,” said Moms Demand Action volunteer Amanda Winch. “It’s an enforcement mechanism on existing Kansas law.”
She said the annual advocacy day in Kansas was designed to raise awareness of gun violence prevention and press for legal reform capable of saving lives. The objective is to visit with all 165 state legislators, she said.
LaTonya Boyd, of Topeka, has been to the Capitol to speak about gun violence many times. Her daughter, Tyesha, was packing to move away from an abusive relationship in Oct. 13, 2009, when her ex-partner fatally shot Tyesha and a friend to death.
Boyd returns as part of a campaign to expose lawmakers to the pain of survivors of gun violence. She is convinced some politicians oppose reasonable restrictions on firearms because they don’t understand the gravity of problems faced by Kansans.
“I’d like them to come out to some of the communities that I look at every day,” she said. “There’s a lot of violence. I don’t think they really see what goes on.”