I've served in law enforcement for 31 years. I've been shot at, had people shoot themselves in front of me and been involved in numerous critical incidents. But none of these experiences could prepare me for my nephew A.J. to be murdered. I know the shock that so many people in Washington State have endured in recent weeks at the sudden loss of their loved ones.
Just after midnight on July 20th, 2012, my wife and I were woken up by my sister Theresa, who was screaming on the phone that she didn't know where her son A.J. was. When I told her that he was at the movies, she told us to turn on the TV. That’s when I saw the reports from Aurora. We spent the next 18 hours waiting to hear what we already knew: A.J. was one of the twelve that had been murdered.
A.J. was shot twice in the head as he told his girlfriend, LaSamoa, to get out of the theater. Thankfully, LaSamoa survived, but she will carry with her the memory of trying to drag A.J. from the theater for the rest of her life. My sister will never see her son get older and my daughter Amanda lost her best friend. That day, A.J. came over to my house to mow our lawn, pull weeds and put out the recycling so he could earn $40 for that night's movie tickets. It was the last time he would visit my home.
Our family has had good and bad times since that day, but we are well aware that our experience is like that of too many other families in America. We have honored A.J. by doing our part to prevent other families from having to experience this horror. That's what brought my beautiful daughter Amanda and I to Washington this month to support Initiative 594.
In Colorado, we responded to the unacceptable reality of gun violence by requiring background checks on private sales. It's the best thing we could have done to honor the lives of our loved ones. Washington has an incredible opportunity this year to prevent future acts of gun violence by passing Initiative 594's common sense background checks.
Since 2013, Colorado's background checks on private sales have worked well for everyone in our community. Ninety-eight percent of the over 11,000 private sale background checks performed have been approved while 227 prohibited purchasers were stopped from purchasing firearms. I have personally used the system twice: once to purchase firearms and once to sell them. It’s a simple and convenient system that keeps firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them—felons, abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill.
Colorado has learned that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I hope you will be part of making Washington the next state to make a difference and save lives by passing Initiative 594.
Dave Hoover is a police sergeant in Colorado and the uncle of Aurora, CO theater shooting victim A.J. Boik.