Stephen Barton is convinced. If the Aurora, Colorado shooter's AR-15 rifle had not jammed, Barton would be dead. As it is, the Syracuse University graduate still carries, under his skin, eight pellets from the shotgun blast that hit him in the face, neck and torso. One pellet is embedded behind his sternum and will likely never be removed.
Barton returned to his alma mater this evening to engage in a discussion about guns. He told me tonight gun issues had little relevance to his life until last July when he and a friend decided to go to the movies while making an Aurora stop-over during a cross country bicycle trip. The injuries Stephen suffered forced him to postpone a year abroad where he planned to use his Russian language skills to teach children. on a Fullbright Scholarship.
His bi-lingual abilities are just part of Barton's impressive set of traits that make him a successful communicator. He is level headed, articulate and poised as he recounts the tear gas, the rattle of rapid gunfire and people screaming for help in the movie theatre under attack. Barton shared that story at Hendricks Chapel tonight.
His plan to go abroad was sidetracked, but he now works for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an initiative founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He speaks about his experiences, communicates with other shooting victims and researches the issues related to gun violence, background checks and legislation.
This 22 year old has the ability to calmly tell his compelling story and discuss issues like mental health and illegal gun trafficking. He sees multiple points of view. He said tonight, regardless of one's feelings about guns and gun violence it is productive to participate in the conversation about making our nation safer.
Like many recent Syracuse graduates Stephen looks forward to returning to campus. This one was meaningful, this weekend's will be more fun. He's coming back to watch Syracuse play Georgetown at the Dome. He will be wildly cheering-on the highly ranked basketball team. Out of more than 35,000 under the teflon roof, it's likely he will be the only one with such a survival story to tell.
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