Finding meaning in the loss: Woman whose brother was killed in Odessa Mass Shooting works for change

Published: Mar. 12, 2021 at 8:08 PM CST
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - Carla Byrne was at a Target in Dallas when she got the call from her sister that changed her life.

“She’s shouting at me, ‘What’s happened? What’s happened,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know what’s happened. I’m in Dallas, remember?’ And she said, “Joey’s been shot.”

Joe Griffith, Byrne’s younger brother, was one of seven people killed in the August 2019 mass shooting. He was on his way to take family pictures with his wife and kids and had no idea there was an active shooter situation. Carla is doing her part to change that.

An early alert system could be coming soon. Legislation from state Rep. Brooks Landgraf that would require the creation of a Texas Active Shooter Alert System has been unanimously approved by the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety. The alerts would be called “Leilah alerts” after Leilah Hernandez, who at 15-years-old was the youngest person killed in the shooting.

Byrne and others have been working with Rep. Landgraf on the bill.

“One of the most difficult things about grief is trying to find meaning in the loss,” Byrne said. “So, obviously, we didn’t wish this had happened at all, but I think it’s such an honor to Leilah Hernandez and maybe gives it a little bit of meaning.”

And while finding meaning in the loss can’t change the past, Byrne hopes it can change the future.

“We kind of live in the before and the after,” she said. “You know, like, everything that was before he was murdered, and everything is the after he was murdered. And so, the after has been... there really aren’t words to express how awful it’s been.”

The bill now heads to the House of Representatives. If it passes both the house and the senate, it will become law on Sep. 1st of this year.

That’s not the only piece of legislation Byrne is currently working on. She’s also working to pass state and federal legislation that would require universal background checks.

The Odessa mass shooter used a weapon he bought legally from an unlicensed seller through what’s known as the ‘gun show loophole.’ Byrne is working with El Paso Rep. Lina Ortega on a state background check bill that she says will help keep people safe without infringing on the 2nd Amendment.

“I’m a gun owner, and I passed a background check to get that gun, and I support the 2nd Amendment,” Byrne said. “I think that ensuring that folks undergo a background check does nothing to diminish the 2nd Amendment. In fact, I think it makes us all safer, and so that we can be sure of  ‘good guy with a gun’ is really a good guy with a gun.”

Byrne added she’ll be going to Austin soon to speak with elected officials about background check legislation.

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