Aurora theater shooting victim Stephen Barton lives about 10 minutes from Newtown, Connecticut

SOUTHBURY, Conn. - Stephen Barton, who was on a cross-country trip when he was shot inside an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, lives about ten minutes from Newtown, Connecticut.

Stephen Barton, 22, and a friend were riding their bicycles west from Virginia Beach to San Francisco on a trip they'd been planning for about three years when they decided to go to the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

A little more than 20 minutes into the movie, a gunman opened fire from the front-right corner of the theater where they were sitting. Barton was hit and fell to the ground.

Doctors told him he was shot in the neck, struck by shrapnel on his right arm and chest, and his face was cut up. Debris was removed during surgery, and he was put on a breathing tube.

Now home in Southbury, Connecticut, Barton found personal ties to the victims of another horrific mass shooting.

"Even now I'm discovering personal connections to the elementary school, just people I know who either were working there or knew people who have been killed," he said. "I never would have thought in a thousand years that this community, this small community right down the road from where I grew up would be affected by gun violence in this way."

12 people were killed and 58 were injured in the shooting in Aurora.

26 were killed by Adam Lanza inside Sandy Hook School, Connecticut State Police said. One other murder, Lanza's own mother, was found at the family's home.

Barton said both experiences have affected him profoundly.

"I just struggle to sometimes, you know, just feel safe publicly at the movies and now I guess at school. I don't know, it's- it's a slow process of healing that you have to go through and it's continuous at least for me personally it's going to last for a long time," he said.

The cumulative pain of both shootings is fueling Barton's push for change.

"Our country is long overdue for a serious discussion about guns about mental health," he said. "There's a way to balance our second amendment right to bear arms against public safety."

After his experience in Aurora, Barton began to do outreach and policy research for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which helped produce a gun control commercial. In the 30-second TV spot, Barton urged people to ask themselves during the debates which candidate has a plan to stop gun violence.

Filmed inside an empty movie theater, Barton talks about his experience during the shooting as photos are shown of jagged gunshot wounds to his face and neck.

"I was lucky. In the next four years, 48,000 Americans won't be so lucky, because they'll be murdered with guns in the next president's term, enough to fill over 200 theaters," Barton said in the ad.

The cumulative pain of both shootings is fueling Barton's push for change.

"Our country is long overdue for a serious discussion about guns about mental health," he said. "There's a way to balance our second amendment right to bear arms against public safety."

"I'm hopeful that these children would not have died in vain."