LaKeisha Chestnut

William “Will” Burnell was my brother. A fierce force of nature. A loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle and friend. A life cut short too soon. Even through we weren’t related by blood, we had a brotherly/sisterly bond: One that stood, even when I lost him that January night.

On January 8, 2016, Will was standing outside of his apartment when a neighbor shot him over an argument. He was shot four times and died at the scene. Even though Will was a gun owner, he didn’t take his gun out to protect himself. He left behind a wife, a daughter, a son, a brand-new granddaughter and a slew of family and friends, including his Olive Garden 1803 family.

I miss him. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss my brother. I fight this fight for him, for his wife and for his family. I don’t want Will to be a statistic. I want people to know his name and never forget it. I want him to be the reason that we have real change in this country. Because no one ever should have to bury someone over an argument. Not me. Not anyone.

Tammy Bailey

I grew up in a hunting family and was raised with rifles and shotguns in our home. My father was very careful about keeping the guns locked in a gun cabinet when I was small, and I would have never dreamed of trying to access them because he had taught me from an early age that guns were not toys. I understood their purpose as a tool to hunt with; without them, venison would not have been in our freezer and on our table.

My father had heart problems from the age of 49 and had survived two bypass surgeries. At 77, he shot his last deer. At 78, when experiencing more cardiac problems, he agreed to a third bypass surgery, which his body survived, but not his spirit.

He was healing — slowly, but healing — on the day I left him alone to go back to work. Sometime in my absence he decided that he couldn’t hold on any longer. My husband found him shortly after he had gotten out of bed, unlocked the old gun cabinet and placed the barrel of his deer rifle in his mouth.

He lost his life, I lost my father and my kids lost their innocence that day.

Kimberly Bland

May 20, 2017, changed my life forever. What seemed to be a normal, beautiful Saturday in May turned to be every parent’s worst nightmare. My 12-year-old son asked to go play at a friend’s house, as he had done hundreds of times before. Then came the call, “There’s been an accident.” I was told that while playing in the basement of the friend’s home, one of the teens picked up a loaded .22 rifle that was behind a door. The teen thought it was a BB gun, and he even looked to see if it was loaded. When he did, he was unknowingly loading it. Playing around, he pointed it at my son and it discharged because he pulled the trigger.

My husband I were the responsible parents. We had taught our son gun safety, and had him in all of the safety classes we could find. Not to mention our own instruction and example. We did our part as parents—we prepared and taught our child about guns and gun safety. Our mistake that never crossed our minds was to ask other parents when our son went to their home: Did they have guns, and how were they stored? My son always had a smile and he had a generous heart for people. He never had an enemy, and he was loved by everyone he met!