Paul Wilson’s life was forever changed one year ago when a man opened fire at Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, killing Wilson’s wife and seven others.
Today, as Wilson and his children struggle to cope with the loss of Christy Wilson, the Lakewood father is waging a battle to spare others from the nightmare visited upon his family and others.
Wilson is seeking public support for Christy’s Law, which he hopes will save lives.
According to Wilson, the measure would prohibit people who are going through divorce proceedings or child custody disputes from owning or possessing a firearm, and it would require them to temporarily surrender their existing guns.
After the end of a divorce or custody battle, the guns would be returned and the ban would be lifted, according to Wilson.
Wilson said people in situations fraught with high emotions and stress have a higher chance of using guns to harm themselves or others.
Scott Dekraai was in the middle of a custody battle when he allegedly entered Salon Meritage on Oct. 12 and shot and killed his ex-wife and seven others.
“That coward walked in there and changed my life forever, which he had no right to do,” Wilson said.
A few months after the slayings, Wilson was talking to an attorney friend, Mike Balmer, about how Dekraai was allegedly able to stockpile so many weapons and ammunition.
"We thought: Something about this doesn't seem right," Wilson said. "He said, 'Let me do some research on this.' What really stuck out for us is he found a statistic that in the United States in the last three years, custody disputes [led to] 150 murders ... We thought, holy cow, that's a gigantic number."
Orange County has had a couple of high-profile cases erupting out of child-custody disputes over the past few years.
Two children, their mother and grandmother died in December 2009 in a murder-suicide at a San Clemente home, a case investigators say stemmed from a child custody dispute between the children's parents.
And Robert Allan Lehmann of Costa Mesa was convicted last month of gunning down his ex-wife and her father execution-style after losing a court battle involving education plans for his 7-year-old daughter.
Wilson said his stance has left him on the receiving end of tirades from gun-rights advocates.
"They say, 'How dare this guy want to take our guns away,"' Wilson said. "By no means are we trying to take guns away from people. We're trying to take guns away from the wrong people."
Some gun-rights supporters have even gone to the Facebook memorial page for Wilson's wife to air their complaints, he said.
"Even though it's on Christy's memorial page, they still feel the right to profess their right to have a gun. And all I can say is, I agree with you if you're doing everything by the book.
“We’re not asking you to give up your gun for the rest of your life,” Wilson said. “I want to be very, very clear on one thing: We are by no means trying to take guns [permanently] out of people’s hands.”
Wilson said couples in an amicable divorce would not be affected by the proposed legislation.
He said he received good feedback from lawmakers and law enforcement officials, but they want to wait until legislation is introduced before endorsing the idea.
In the meantime, Wilson is preparing for the one-year anniversary of the shooting, which almost took his life too.
Shortly before the rampage, he was at the salon, where his wife worked and he often got a haircut.
"I was in that salon for two hours before that coward came in," Wilson said, referring to Dekraai, the alleged shooter.
"I got a haircut that day. I said hello to every one of the [victims]," Wilson said. But "I happened to leave early that day because I had an appointment that I couldn't postpone. A hundred other times when [Christy] was getting her hair done and I was having my hair done, we'd make a day of it."
Dekraai's ex-wife, Michelle Fournier, was washing Christy Wilson's hair when the gunfire erupted. Also killed were the salon's owner, Randy Lee Fannin, 62; Victoria Ann Buzzo, 54; Lucia Bernice Kondas, 65; Laura Lee Elody, 46; Michele Daschbach Fast, 47; and David Caouette, 64.
Hattie Stretz, 74, survived her injuries.
Wilson hopes people will support Christy’s Law by signing his online petition or following the latest updates on his campaign for the legislation on Facebook.
“If we can’t send our kids to school or to church because people are out there doing these mass shootings, somehow someway we have to do something,” Wilson said.
On Friday, Wilson said he will gather with family to read letters he solicited from loved ones about his wife.
"I have a box of over a thousand letters that we decided to save for the anniversary date," Wilson said. "So we'll just sit back and read and look at the good memories of her. I think it'll be really good. I'm really glad we saved them for this day."
Every day Wilson fights through his sorrow, and said coping with his loss is a “daily struggle.”
“I don’t know how I deal with it,” Wilson said. “I’m not completely sure that I am.”
But “talking about [Christy] and fighting for this legislation is what keeps me going,” he said. “I think its Christy’s way of reaching out and continuing to be the person she was.”
-- City News Service contributed to this story.
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