My twin brother, Oscar Johnson the 3rd, was shot in his room by a friend. He left the family in shock: How did this happen? I was very full of anger. I didn’t know what to do. Till this day I’m still angry. This happened May, 2, 2018.
My oldest brother, Sylvester Gum Jr., was murdered. He was shot in the chest twice with an illegal, unregistered gun. I was home on summer break from college. Our lives changed that summer of ’85. Nothing was ever the same because my oldest brother — my encourager, my best friend and our family provider — was dead. I remember the grief and sorrow of that horrible day. My mom had a grief breakdown. My dad was silent and prayed. My oldest brother was kind-spirited, generous and family-oriented. He never got a chance to see four small children grow up or me, his baby sister. He told everyone in the community that I was going become a teacher; he was so proud of me because I was the first to attend college in our family. I’ve only shared my story a few times with friends, but I feel the heartache of the sorrow, like it just happened, every time someone’s family is affected by gun violence.
My sister Kate was my best friend. She was just two years older, and we grew up together. Just like all sisters, we played house, made up dances in the living room, played sports together, and were in the same schools all our lives. Kate was 33 when she was shot in the head while sitting on a bench with her friend in the Cleveland Metropark at 5:08 p.m. on June 4, 2019. They have not found their murderer.
Kate was a dynamic, caring, humorous person without a single enemy. Kate’s first CDs were No Doubt, Coolio and Alice in Chains; I use that description to explain how she loved everything. In this past year, my family and I can’t fathom why someone would want to harm our Kate. Not a day goes by that I don’t long to see her.
Eventually, when our wounds are a bit more “healed,” I plan to inspire change in Metropark mandates to have more cameras and license-plate readers on all their entrances. Whoever was wielding the gun on June 4, 2019, is still out there, and we need a change so that person can never have access to a gun.
My brother’s life was taken, not by a stranger but by someone that he knew, in March 2019. He had a heart of gold and was loved by so many people. His life will live on forever. Please put down the gun.
Mary Stallard Ison was the second victim in this story told by her daughters and sons, and by me to my sons. She loved all her 13 children equally. She would stay up nights making little shirts out of flour sacks and holding one baby’s feet to make them straight. She was smart enough to help the high school boys with their math, even though she only went through the eighth grade.
She was very quiet. To me, there was a sadness about her. It turned out that Earl, her firstborn son, had been killed in a hunting accident when he was 35. He lived at home at the time.
Emotions were not expressed freely, so she took them to the barn. When she would milk the cows, she would talk to Earl. She would always start with, “Oh Lord, Earl.” This cycle lasted until she was old and had to go to the hospital, and her daughters encouraged her not to talk with Earl while she was there.
When my firstborn son wanted a BB gun, I would say, “Remember Uncle Earl,” so he would live.
One of my nephews, 24, my beloved only sister, 49, and one of my precious brothers, 64, all killed themselves using guns.
My family had reason to believe that my nephew, Cord, was perhaps experiencing the emergence of schizophrenia due to things he said to his girlfriend and people at work before his death.
My sister, Lisa, was diagnosed with bipolar depression in her late teens and battled her demons all her life, with intermittent intervention from professionals and treatment with medication. Her HMO had just changed her meds, due to cost concerns, before her death.
My brother, Franz, had been forced out of a lifetime of service in the U.S. Navy after 19 years, saving the government pension costs. He was being treated for Seasonal Affective Disorder, but, we learned after his death, he had stopped taking his medication.
I have been suicidal and self-harming and am currently in prolonged remission from severe depression due to strong medical support and proper medication. I believe if I’d had access to a gun, I might not be here.
Our father committed suicide in 1972, and honestly, the shock of that horribleness never left either one of us. Karl went from a blond, giggling child to a child fascinated by danger and destruction. As we grew to adulthood, we spent very little time together. About a month before Karl died by suicide with a gun, he invited me to go bar-hopping with him in Portland, Maine — our hometown. I agreed, as long as I drove. He knew everyone in these bars, and in every bar he was served free drinks. At the last place, he looked me straight in the eye, something he rarely did, and said, “Have you ever thought about what he was thinking when he did it?” I had to stop this topic because he was drunk, the bar was loud, and I was tired. We drove home in silence. I left to go back to graduate school in New York City, and he went back to his junior year at the University of Maine, Orono. One month later, Karl put on his Marine dress blues, drove to his fraternity in his car, and shot himself in the head.
My sister was shot three times and pushed onto the interstate. The bullet to her head was the one that ended any chance of survival for her. She left behind four children. It took a long time for me to understand that the gun was the weapon used, but the person holding it was the actual killer. I wanted to blame all weapons as dangerous. I am in the process of writing my sister’s story after I saw her name down in a statistic of women murdered. She was more than a number. She was my big sister, a mother, a daughter, an aunt and a friend to many. Gun violence has to stop.
Since I got out of the Army in 1987, I have lost family members to gun violence. First were my step-grandparents, who were murdered in their home during a robbery. A few years later, our family lost a female cousin due to murder. And lastly, I lost my twin brother to either suicide by a handgun or murder. Never believed a lot of the details surrounding his death. I am very tired and distraught by this nonstop violence with guns or any other means. We have an ugly culture in this country where life is not valued, laws are not respected, punishment for crimes is not strict enough or followed through. A sick culture needs healing and correction. We don’t have a gun problem, we have a culture problem. Until the culture is fixed, unfortunately, gun violence will persist and many more will die. And families will suffer.
My name is Amanda Dale Finley. I am living in East Tennessee now, but I lived in Alabama for much of my life, as a kid and young adult. I come from a middle-class family; we felt safe in a small Alabama town in 1983. My brother Patrick Dale, age 27, was murdered in that small Alabama town when he decided to give a man a ride home one night. After arriving home, this killer came out of his house holding a shotgun aimed at Pat. Forcing him to drive 60 miles into a rural area, Pat was forced out of the car, and this man blew his head off at close range with that shotgun. This killer had recently been released from the state mental institution and also had 17 previous arrests, but he still had easy access to his father’s shotgun. My family is still haunted when thinking about Patrick’s last hours, begging for his life. Moms Demand Action has provided a platform for me to attempt to convince the public we have to fix this lack of gun safety. Safe gun storage would have saved my brother that night.