Ten people making Orlando a better place to be 

People we love 2018

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click to enlarge PHOTO BY ROB BARTLETT
  • Photo by Rob Bartlett

Patricia Brigham

Gun-law reform activist

There's no underlying reason for why Patricia Brigham got involved with the push for gun-law reform in Florida; she just did, because it was the issue that spoke to her the most. Sure, she could point to her own life experience involving grief and firearms, such as how a teenage friend committed suicide using a rifle years ago. Or she could attribute it to the way – with the sport and necessity of hunting dwindling in popularity – Americans have begun to fetishize guns in recent years, which strikes her as unhealthy. Or she could decry the tragedy that was the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in December 2012, and the way Congress shocked the masses by failing to pass gun-law reform – any sort of reform – after the disaster, even as the nation mourned.

Truth be told, Brigham could point to a slew of reasons as to why she got involved with the cause, but she can't point to one reason in particular. As she tells Orlando Weekly, "Everybody always says you can't change it, and I thought: So long as you say that nothing's going to change. You've got to start somewhere." That "somewhere" was what brought her to the League of Women Voters of Florida in early 2013, where she would later form the organization's Gun Safety Committee, which she now chairs.

Brigham and the LWVFL's work have played a pivotal role in shaping the Sunshine State's relationship with firearms in recent years – and for years to come. She, as well as other advocates, was at the forefront of the opposition when state lawmakers began the push to legislate open-carry into law on college campuses; so far, it's not going to happen. The same could be said for efforts by lawmakers to legalize open-carry across the state; to date, proposals for that bill have been tossed to the side too.

Before she was one of the city's notable activists, Brigham was a military brat who'd been dragged to Orlando as a child. But something about Central Florida kept her here over the years: her time as a teenager in the 1970s, when she played the Disney character Grumpy for work; her years as a student at the University of Central Florida, where she'd earn a bachelor's and master's degree; and then, of course, the network of loved ones she'd come to develop.

These loved ones rose to the occasion after Brigham was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. (She's now in remission.) Between her loved ones and her favorite music – particularly Led Zeppelin – she managed to come out the other end of the painful process of chemotherapy and undergoing a mastectomy. She says she couldn't have done it without either.

Brigham says: "[Music] reconnected me to that kind of spirit that's inside me. I was so tired from the chemo. I learned that despite how old you are or the illnesses that you get, that young spirit, always keep that alive in yourself." It's that steady flame of spirit that fuels her determination to keep Floridians safe and sane.

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