By: Jen Russon
“Nothing is stronger in this fight than a survivor’s story,” said Kate Ranta, a gun control activist from Coral Springs.
Six years ago, the 45-year-old marketing manager, along with her father, were shot with a Beretta 9mm pistol by her husband, Thomas Maffei, who was estranged from her at the time. He eventually was sentenced to 60 years in prison for shooting through the door of Ranta’s apartment on Sample Road.
“My dad, my younger son, William and I were behind that door. He [Maffei] couldn’t see us. He could have killed us all.”
All three survived, though she uses this term loosely. Ranta said her physical and emotional wounds will never fully heal. She feels lucky to be alive. Outrage drives her activism; however, she and family often remark that the price they paid is longer than Maffei’s prison term.
“He got sixty years, and we got life,” she said, going on to describe how the mayhem and chaos of gun violence left a deeper scar than the bullet that tore through her breast.
“People ask me if I wished I had a gun, so I could have better protected myself. No. More guns equal more deaths. We were ambushed. If he came at me with a knife or in a car, I feel like, well – that would have given us more of a fighting chance. Gun violence is like that. It happens so fast. It’s why I didn’t rush to judge the police response to the gun massacre at Douglas High School.”
Ranta said she was surprised to see Broward Sheriff’s Office criticized for their actions during the shooting on February 14, 2018.
“I know that when I lived in Broward between 2010 and 2016, BSO was there for me. They red-flagged my Parkland residence because of the domestic abuse calls I’d made. They even had blue prints of my home. They were always willing to go the extra mile for me.”
Ranta said she was surprised again, to see that the Coral Springs Police Department was commended for their response to the Douglas shootings, when she knows from bitter experience that their policy on a call involving an active shooter, is to disengage. She remembers bleeding, crawling toward CSPD officers who were crouched behind their cars. She recalls the scene vividly when she visits her parents, brother and sister-in-law in Parkland and Coral Springs.
“Driving here in March, I could see Barrington Club Apartments, where I was shot, from the road. I can see that door,” Ranta remarked on the phone from her home in Alexandra, Virginia. “It still terrifies me.” She visited not only to see her family, but to take part in March for Our Lives.
This week is a milestone for Ranta, who just marked her second year anniversary in Alexandria.
“I had planned to move back to Virginia anyway, as it was my home for thirteen years before I moved to Parkland with my now ex-husband, Maffei. After the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, I pushed up my move date by two weeks. I couldn’t wait to get out of Florida. I was done.”
But Ranta isn’t done with politics. The former candidate for Alexandria’s School Board suspended her campaign to focus not just on activism, but on parenting her two sons, Henry 14 and William 9.
“I decided not to pursue a seat on the school board because the position lasts three years, and my younger son is entering what I feel are critical school years.” She said William, the son who was with her on the fateful day of her shooting, has shown an interest in politics.
“He’s given small speeches on stage with me. He spoke at the Disarm Hate Rally in 2016 in Washington D.C., and more recently at The Concert Across America to End Gun Violence.”
Ranta says that D.C. is “the place to be” if you’re a part of the resistance. She’s leveraging her and William’s survivor stories to change negative perceptions of gun control, adding that the most powerful work she’s doing now is through Gays Against Guns.
“We call ourselves ‘the human beings’. I like them because it’s direct action. For example, we ‘human beings’ went to Old Town Alexandria and protested in front of NRA’s lobbyist, Chris Cox’s home on his 40th birthday. Some of his guests were heckling us; one called us nerds. I remember one man leaning out of a window, telling us to leave Cox and his family alone; that no one wanted us in this town, which was funny in a way because it’s really the NRA that no one wants here.”
Ranta adds that through all her grassroots efforts to stop the senseless gun violence, the best solution so far is simply to vote. She says that any survivor of gun violence must do these two things as well: seek professional help to combat PTSD, and “use your voice.”
“Everyone is on a different journey, and any activism is the right activism. For me it’s talking about the dangerous intersection between domestic abuse and gun violence; the stories of women in abusive relationships and violence within families go largely unnoticed, and I’m fighting to change that.”
Ranta is doing this alongside friends who are survivors like her. She founded Women Against the Violence Epidemic (WAVE) with Kimberly Brusk, and is helping Rachael Joseph expand her Minnesota group, Survivors Lead into a national organization. She also has her eye on the Virginia House of Delegates.
“I’m finding my power again,” said Ranta.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.