In America, mass shooting tend to be followed by waves of gun safety activism, the shocking death tolls impossible for the public to ignore. Parkland, Fl.: 18. Sandy Hook: 26. Las Vegas: 58. But those numbers hardly account for all of the people affected by the incidents they represent. They omit the families of the victims, the traumatized witnesses, and the injured survivors who will spend months or years in recovery.
These are the people who feature in photographer Joe Quint’s documentary project, It Takes Us. Quint took the first photograph in 2014, shortly after the Isla Vista, Calif., school shooting, when he spotted a headline that read “How could this happen again?” “I was struck by the naivety. How could it not happen again?” Quint tells InStyle. “I was frustrated by inaction—my own and my country’s. I could no longer scratch my head in amazement every time there was a national tragedy and wonder what it was going to take. I realized it's going to take all of us. For me, this means meeting and photographing these brave people and telling their diverse stories of trauma, grief, and strength.”
Most of the subjects Quint met with had seen their lives turned around by the types of gun violence that don’t make the news. America has a mass-shooting problem. No other country except Yemen has a higher rate of mass shootings per capita. But these tragically routine incidents make up only a small portion of the country’s gun deaths. Quint photographed people affected by gun-related suicides (which account for nearly 60 percent of the U.S.’s gun deaths); domestic violence (a woman is five times more likely to be killed in a domestic violence incident if there is a gun in the home); accidents involving children (Quint points to the oft-quoted statistic that in 2015 more people were shot by toddlers than terrorists); and gang violence.
"Overwhelmingly, people are killed and injured not in mass shootings but rather by a handgun in the hands of someone they know,” he says. “This is a problem that cuts through the whole of the country. None of us are more than one or two degrees of separation from an act of gun violence, and the project reflects that reality.”
When he first started taking these pictures, Quint says, “People were skeptical. There’s an understandable reluctance to engage outsiders to this very tight-knit community.” But ultimately, the survivors who participated wanted to tell their stories, often as part of recovery. "Together, we go to the worst moments of their life. We take each other apart and put ourselves back together again."
Scroll down for their stories, and visit www.ittakesus.org to see the full project.
DeAndra, Indianapolis, Indiana
DeAndra's son suffered severe brain trauma as a result of shots fired into a house party. When this photograph was made, Dre hadn't yet regained his ability to talk, walk, or feed himself more than 6 or 7 forkfuls. He's doing better today but still has a long road ahead.
Clai, Westmoreland, NH
Clai had a childhood marked by abuse, violence, and torture. On the night she was shot by her stepfather, her mother said, “I really think he’s going to do it tonight,” and then hid in the closet. Clai was 13 at the time.
Stephanie, Las Vegas, NV
Stephanie's 4-year-old daughter Dayla was killed when she was struck by a ricocheting bullet on federal land, which people commonly use for target practice and sport. Dayla was with her father, grandfather, and twin brother at the time.
J, Lexington, KY
J's brother was murdered by his half brother because of a dispute. When asked how he deals with the grief, J says "he has a very, very, very, very strong family.”
Ian, Philadelphia, PA
If two police officer had not scooped Ian up and rushed him to the ER after he was shot, he would have died moments later in the street. As an act of remembrance and gratitude, he has the names of the officers tattooed across his chest, near his scar and right above his heart.
Marilyn, San Antonio, TX
Marilyn's son Ryan was shot at point-blank range by his girlfriend's brother. His body was stuffed into a mattress in the garage, yards away from where she and the rest of her family were enjoying Thanksgiving dinner.
Sandy, Aurora, CO
Sandy, the mother of a young woman who was taken in the Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting in 2012, says that “if people only knew what it’s like to be in our shoes for even a day, this problem would be gone.”
David, Lexington, KY
Shortly before using a gun to end his life, David’s son called the police to tell them where they could find his body so his parents and brother would not worry.
Lucy, Jacksonville, FL
Lucy's son Jordan was killed in Jacksonville, Fl., when a man felt threatened by his loud music.