About a decade ago, Greg Jackson was shot while walking on a street in Washington, D.C. A decade earlier, Rob Wilcox’s 19-year-old cousin, Laura, tragically lost her life when a gunman entered the behavioral clinic where she worked, shooting her four times at close range.
It left a trail of pain for both men. For Jackson, surviving the shooting compelled him to become an activist, not by choice, but due to the circumstances he faced.
He recalled to People that in April 2013, he found himself caught in a crossfire, sustaining a gunshot wound that hit two arteries and left him on the brink of death. He vividly recounted the harrowing experience of arriving at the hospital and being told he had only 26 minutes to live.
Against the odds, he survived the initial surgery and underwent five additional surgical procedures. His journey to recovery included a six-month stay in the hospital. While recovering in the hospital, Jackson was struck by the lack of progress in passing stricter gun legislation, as he observed elected leaders making excuses on television.
His recovery coincided with the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a time when gun control was a prominent national issue. However, he found that the discourse surrounding it felt more like a political debate rather than a genuine effort to save lives.
Wilcox’s woes began to play out in 2001. His cousin tragically lost her life due to a fatal shooting in northern California. She was working as a receptionist during her college’s winter break at the time. Over two decades later, Wilcox said he vividly remembers details of his cousin’s funeral, including the sunlight filtering through the windows and the shimmering specks of dust. The room was filled with grieving people, and he witnessed the profound emotional impact on his family members.
Similar to Jackson, this personal experience with gun violence prompted Wilcox to ponder the issue of how guns find their way into inappropriate settings and the wrong hands.
An initiative being championed by the White House has brought both Jackson and Wilcox together to turn their pain into purpose. They are working with the White House’s recently established Office of Gun Violence Prevention, overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.
President Joe Biden announced the creation of this federal office, citing the lack of action from Congress to enact widely supported measures such as universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
The White House said Jackson and Wilcox were picked to lead the charge as a result of their personal experiences with gun violence which has affected their lives and families. These individuals have channeled their personal pain into purposeful advocacy for change as they become deputy directors of the office.
President Biden commended their commitment to this important cause and welcomed them into their new roles as part of his team.