Lauren Nance

He is a grandson, son, brother, cousin, nephew, uncle, father, grandfather, friend, husband.

He is caring, the tall man that wraps his arms around his mother and Nana.

He is funny—so funny that I still remember having sore cheeks when my Nana dropped me off from our weekends together.

He is protective, the father of three daughters who need him and deserve him everyday.

He is brave, the courage that his two younger brothers have only been able to experience for a portion of their young lives.

We remember you as these qualities everyday. You are not a victim of senseless violence to us. You are more than a folder in someone’s drawer to us. Although it was cut short, your life matters to us, still, everyday. I’m unsure if it hurts worse that after 20 years, your murder has remained unsolved, and that it’s been unspoken of by law enforcement for at least 15 years. But I do know that it’s not right and means to me that they don’t care.

The chain is broken, but we heal everyday. We are grateful for the time we have had with you, but we miss and love you every moment we are without you.

Benjamin Edwin DeWillis, we love you and remember you … I miss you everyday, Cuz.

Anonymous

I’ll never forget that last night we went to karaoke, and you said, “I had a good last hurrah.” It struck me as odd at the time, and I knew things were dark for you, but I genuinely thought I could help you in your time of need. In the two weeks that followed, I called and texted, but you never called back. Finally, I went to Facebook, and that’s how I found out that you had killed yourself.

I had nightmares for weeks, until I finally made contact with a family member. They didn’t actually seem to care, but at least I stopped dreaming of all the ways you could have done it. I realized the way you went about things was deliberate, well-planned and executed; I never stopped wondering if I missed something, or if you would still be alive without that gun.

I miss you, I still cry and I’m passionate about pushing for gun reform, so that no one ever has to find out from Facebook that their friend is dead, like I did.

Anonymous

As a child, I grew up seeing photos of an uncle I never knew. I remember asking my mother who this person was, and she told me that he went to heaven a long time ago. When I was old enough to understand, she told me that her brother shot himself.

My mother grew up in a household where her father was an alcoholic; there was a lot of financial strain and physical abuse. There was no emotional support for her and her five siblings. One day, my uncle was in a horrible fight with his high school sweetheart. Feeling alone and afraid and hopeless, he took his father’s pistol and shot himself in the backyard of their house. Realizing what he had done, he ran into the house to get help. He’d hit a large artery and bled to death. He was only 15.

Persis Beaven

Ulyses was the friend every parent wishes for their children. I could trust him and call him at any time. My friend was kind and respectful. He loved his wife and two-year old son, but at the fear of losing his family, he became a victim of gun suicide. I knew my friend wasn’t stable enough to have a gun, but he assured me that it was in a safe. In Texas, we don’t have extreme protection orders or red flag laws. I wish I could’ve raised that flag for him. Now I volunteer with Moms Demand Action to honor his memory and the thousands of victims and survivors of gun violence.

A teacher’s story

I was a ballroom dance teacher. I met with my students weekly, usually for a standing appointment. One evening my student was late—and he was never late. I called his home and was astounded that a policeman answered the phone. I told him why I was calling, and he told me that my student had shot himself and was dead.

He seemed as unprepared and shocked to be saying these words as I was to be hearing them. Nothing more to be said. Call over.

“Charles” was not my loved one, but he was a liked one—a nice man I danced with, smiled with, talked to. I cannot imagine the pain of his family and close friends if I, simply his dance teacher, still think of him often, and with such sadness.

Jamie Lynn Towsand

On June 10, 2017, my son’s father, Samuel Lamar Dixon, was murdered—lost to gun violence in Syracuse, New York. The morning after seeing off his beautiful Deana to her senior prom, five days before his son’s thirteenth birthday, and an hour after dropping his daughter off to work.

We are forever grieved and heartbroken.

Wanda Ridgeway

On March 9, 2006, my family’s lives changed forever. My dear nephew, Hershel Scriven, a youth minister, was shot while backing out of a driveway. Hershel, along with four others, was returning from seeing The Lion King at our local auditorium. While he was backing out of the driveway, three young men approached the car, and then two men proceeded to shoot into the car, trying to rob them. Hershel was the only one hit. The bullet hit him in his head. Hershel didn’t die right away but after being removed from ventilator, a few days later and shy of his 24th birthday.

Tess S.

In 2015, my dear friend Paul took his own life with a firearm. As his friend, I knew he had struggled with depression ever since being laid off from a job he loved. I also knew he had sought therapy and was taking an antidepressant. He was vehemently anti-gun violence and had never owned a gun.

I had just seen him at a mutual friend’s home the weekend before. He seemed upbeat and happy. One week later, while his partner was out of town, he purchased a gun and used it to end his life. He was 60 years old. In the U.S., the majority of gun deaths are attributed to gun suicides. I believe my friend would be alive today had he not been able to purchase a gun.

Guns and depression are a lethal combination. This is one reason why I fought so hard for Washington state’s red flag law. It’s why I continue to fight to end gun violence and advocate for gun safety laws in our state through Moms Demand Action.

Laura Brown

The father of my children was gunned down on January 14—shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident. It’s all very new, very raw and very hard. He was the funniest man on this planet and will be missed dearly. No matter what, he could make anyone laugh, even if they were sad or upset. He was amazing and was taken from our lives far too soon.

Janice Walker

As a survivor of gun violence, I often think about the lives of loved ones who have impacted my life. Living in a large city, Chicago, and being Black puts my loved ones more at risk. My brother Melvin was shot and killed by a neighbor who was disgruntled that Melvin had broken up a fight between him and another man in his apartment complex. In retaliation, this neighbor sought out the man he had fought earlier that day and Melvin for breaking up the fight. His revenge was to shoot and kill them both and then shoot himself. Three lives gone so abruptly and unnecessarily. This news changed my life. It took me down a road of despair and anguish to know I would never see, laugh with or touch Melvin ever again.

This past summer, my cousin Angelo Bronson was walking down a street in the Englewood area of Chicago when he was shot and killed by an unknown assailant who is still at large. He left behind three children, a wife, and a host of friends and family.

These murders and others have prompted me to dedicate my life to helping survivors.