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Sabika Sheikh Gun Reform Bill in US, Firearm Licensing & Registration Act

It has been over a year since Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani high-school exchange student lost her life in a mass shooting in America. She was attending a school in Santa Fe in Texas through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program since August 21, 2017. Just a month before she was due to return back to Pakistan, she fell victim to a lethal mass shooting attack at her school.

Sabika Sheikh Gun Reform Bill in US, Firearm Licensing & Registration Act

After her death, her family was understandably distraught, one of them being her cousin, Shaheera Jalil Albasit. Shaheera was a Fullbright scholar in the same year as Sabika. She arrived in the United States just a day after Sabika, her younger cousin.

Today is my last day in America.

I came to US in 2017 as Fulbright scholar from Pakistan. 1 day before my arrival, arrived my most humble cousin Sabika. We both were exchange students. pic.twitter.com/L2m4OdaLIS

— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

After the first year of her graduate program had finished, she witnessed the death of her beloved younger cousin, Sabika. She could not fathom that something like this had happened to her family. And from then on, all her actions were directed towards making sure she did something which would prevent something like this from happening in the future.

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Once you’ve seen murder so closely, the murder of your dearest, everything changes at most fundamental levels. The smell, the sound, the sight, the air that night, everything stands still, frozen in time. In July 2019, I finally stepped into the classroom where Sabika was killed.

— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

And this is when Shaheera decided to dedicate the rest of her time in the United States to work towards gun reforms.

Utter helplessness of her final moments before being shot stands still, frozen in time in that barren room. After Sabika’s murder, I returned to US with 1 purpose: To get a gun safety bill introduced for her in Congress. In last year, for every 1 step fwd there were 99 rejections

— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

She encountered various setbacks for every minor victory, but she persevered.

Esp as someone not from US, I struggled at the most basic levels. I didnt know who to approach, what to ask, what to say during protest speeches, how to think, what to think. I struggled to understand spoken English & find right words to appear smart enough to be taken seriously.

— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

Not being a US citizen herself, Shaheera had a hard time to even communicate some of her thoughts and feelings as she gave speeches and talked to people who could help make changes.

As I approached US Congresspersons, 9/10 times they werent interested in the gun safety proposal I was working on. 9/10 times I didnt know the ‘how’.

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In Feb 2019, I started coordinating w Office of @JacksonLeeTX18 on a comprehensive Gun Reforms Act.

— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

But earlier this year, Shaheera started to work with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee on a comprehensive Gun Reforms Act. The act had been worked on by Kristina Woods, another woman who had lost a loved one to gun violence in America. And using the act as a jumping point, Shaheera herself worked on three bill proposal drafts.

It was prepared diligently by Kristina Woods who lost her own sibling to gun violence.

Since then, it has taken extreme discipline for me to understand policy writing, to decode legality of US statutes, and finally draft 3 gun bill proposals from the original Act.

— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

And just before Shaheera was expected to leave the United States, with two congresswomen by her side she proposed the historical ‘The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing & Registration Act’, which she hopes will become a law as she leaves it in the hands of gun violence prevention groups to see it through.

On July 26, 2019, miraculously on the very last working day before my departure from US, I stood in the same building, the US Capitol, alongside 2 Congresswomen as we introduced ‘The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing & Registration Act’.

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— Shaheera Jalil Albasit (@shaheerajalil) July 29, 2019

It is honestly so encouraging to see Shaheera having made such great strides in American law-making. She did Sabika’s memory proud by trying to ensure a tragedy like the one at Santa Fe’s high-school where Sabika was, does not befall another school. And all of it will be remembered in her cousin Sabika’s name through ‘The Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing And Registration Act’.

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