Whitney Austin: Survivor of Fifth Third Bank rampage visits shooting range to learn about gun safety

Whitney Austin: Survivor of Fifth Third Bank rampage visits shooting range to learn about gun safety
Not many people who have been shot 12 times live to tell their story and make a difference, but a Louisville woman is doing that by learning more about what nearly killed her. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

WEST POINT, Ky. (WAVE) - Not many people who have been shot 12 times live to tell their story and make a difference, but a Louisville woman is doing that by learning more about what nearly killed her.

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It’s been eight months since Whitney Austin lived through that horrific shooting at Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, where three people died. Austin was immediately struck by bullets as she entered a revolving door at the bank on September 6, 2018.

She’s now made it a mission to talk about responsible gun ownership. On Tuesday, she invited WAVE 3 News and chose to go to Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point to learn about gun safety from firearms instructor Cole Daunhauer.

The gun range is typically closed on Tuesdays, but Daunhauer said they opened up their doors to Austin and members of her organization, Whitney Strong.

“I don’t think there could be anything more obvious than coming and getting trained,” Austin said.

Austin said she’s been around guns for the past 13 years. She has guns in her home, and says she was indifferent to them until she was a victim.

“We are here to walk the walk,” Austin said. “I’m a firearm owner. It’s important for me to know the proper way of storing it, the proper way of wielding it.”

That’s what she learned about in Daunhauer’s class at Knob Creek.

“Without the education, that is why we have issues,” Daunhauer said.

Austin said she has come a long ways since September 2018, and Tuesday also is a step.

“Today is a big deal,” Austin said. “I’ve never held a firearm before. This will be my first experience. I think I will be fine. I can separate myself from the firearm and understand the different dynamics that played into the situation. Most importantly, I’ll do anything to be responsible with their firearms.”

That means being in the same space as the type of gun that hurt her and killed people around her. Daunhauer said he’s never had a student like Austin. But he said he knows what trauma feels like.

“What I experienced in my time in the Marine Corps, and my last tour in Afghanistan, there were certain things I needed to face,” Daunhauer said. “You have to face what your fear is. This is what you do. This is what she is doing.”

When Austin went out to the shooting range, she asked for that moment to be private. Austin said she isn’t against gun ownership, but supports ways of curbing violence through what other states have adopted like the Red Flag law.

The Red Flag law allows police or family to petition a state court to order temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

“I can’t say for certain that that would have changed the outcome of my scenario, but certainly there were lots of signs with this shooter,” Austin said. “When you look back at mass shootings in our country over the past 10, 20 years, in many instances, there were warning signs.”

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