On May 3, 2023, David Chami was the victim of a shootout in New Orleans. He received three bullet wounds toward his left side — specifically his upper left arm and collarbone. The bullets shattered several bones, leaving him in need of steel reinforcement to help maintain the mobility and proper function of his upper arm.
Chami, who is also the managing partner of Consumer Attorneys PLLC, has successfully tried cases related to civil rights, consumer protection, and employment and insurance bad faith. Following the shooting, Chami spent five days in ICU and underwent three surgeries, and has since decided to be an active advocate for those who aren’t able to advocate for themselves.
Gun advocate as a victim
“Most of the time, those involved in a gun violence incident can’t speak up for themselves,” says Chami. “I survived and I can speak up.”
Fifty-nine percent of Americans have reported that they or someone they know have experienced gun violence, which includes suicide, unintentional or undetermined violence, homicide, and police shootings. In the US, 43,000 Americans die from a firearm each year, marking an average of over 116 each day.
“I’m not taking this lightly,” shares Chami. “I look at my family and extended family, and I see what would have happened if I hadn’t survived. It’s rare to have the victim of gun violence be the advocate. I plan on speaking up for myself, my family, gun violence survivors, and my law firm.”
Fight for gun reform
California is the leading state in the US when it comes to gun safety policies, having the strictest system for removing firearms from people prohibited from owning a firearm. Since 2022, California has prohibited the gun industry from marketing firearm-related products to minors, which reduces the risks of selling gun parts to build guns. It also restricts the manufacture of firearms by prohibiting anyone from manufacturing firearms without a state license — including via 3D printing.
In 2022, other states strengthened their gun safety policies to help crack down on gun violence after witnessing the highest number of deaths related to gun violence in 40 years in 2021. “It’s not just about going after the criminal who fired the gun,” Chami adds, “it’s about confronting the firearm manufacturers and the companies who produce the accessories.”
According to Chami, his attacker had converted a handgun into a semi-automatic firearm with a magazine extender that allowed him to fire off 30 shots without interruption. “If he didn’t have the converter,” Chami shares, “he likely would not have been able to shoot me at all or fire so many consecutive shots, with the last one breaking my clavicle and ricocheting to land just before my trachea. I am very aware I was a millimeter away from death.”
Fortunately, at the beginning of this year, the US Department of Justice obtained a court order blocking firearm manufacturers from selling machine gun converters. This is the beginning of making converters illegal.
State of gun violence in the US
While gun laws in the US vary from state to state, it’s clear that gun violence remains a significant issue throughout the country. Some states have stricter regulations, including background checks, waiting periods, and restrictions on certain types of firearms, while other states have more permissive laws that allow for easier access to firearms.
This patchwork of regulations can impact gun violence rates. However, nearly half of gun-related homicides occur in 127 cities — dispersed among blue and red states alike — comprising less than a quarter of the US population.
According to research, 2021 is cited to have been the year with the highest gun-related deaths in 40 years, solidifying the US as having the highest rate of gun violence in the developed world. The underlying issue of gun violence in the US is often traced back to the easy access citizens have to firearm purchases, regardless of which state one purchases a gun in. As a result, there are more guns per capita in the US compared to any other country — for comparison, there are 120 firearms per 100 in the US versus 5.5 firearms per 100 in the UK).
Whether these weapons are purchased legally or not, their sheer abundance is considered a leading component of the nation’s current public health crisis. Not only that, but the mental health issue in the US is a growing concern that impacts gun violence.
Without comprising the Second Amendment — which many gun advocates lean on as a determining factor in their right to own firearms — the US can enact stricter gun control laws that include universal background checks, bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and red flag laws. Additionally, prohibiting the production and selling of converters to avoid loopholes in gun reform laws will help reduce cases like David Chami’s.
Moreover, investing in mental health services would help identify and treat people at risk of harming themselves and others. Similarly, addressing the root causes of gun violence in cities with a high poverty rate and inequality can help allocate funds to proper education, job training, and social services.
In a country where gun violence continues to shatter lives and communities, David Chami’s harrowing story serves as a rallying cry for change. His journey from victim to advocate exemplifies the resilience and determination needed to combat this pressing issue. Taking into account the data from the last decade, there is an urgent need to get ahead of the public health crisis of gun violence.
“I’m incredibly grateful that I survived this incident,” Chami remarks, “but I recognize the traumatic experience not just for me, but for my family, my friends, and those around me. Simply being there and witnessing this is traumatic.”
Chami’s survival and subsequent advocacy should serve as a wake-up call to us all. Let his story ignite a fire within us, urging us to push for change, demand accountability, and stand up against the senseless violence that plagues our nation.
The time for action is now. Together, we can build a safer, more compassionate America.