More than 30 years ago, my little sister Barbara Jo took her life with one of the two guns that she possessed. She suffered from drug addiction and mental illness. It remains a mystery as to how she got ahold of those guns. The situation is no better today. In fact, it’s far worse, as gun deaths in our country have increased immensely since 1988. We cannot bring Barbara back, but we must fight to get common-sense gun laws passed to help and save others.
My big brother, Jim, was six feet four inches tall, kind, smart, funny and sometimes depressed. He was a father of two beautiful little girls, 2 and 9 years old. He was a husband and a son.
It has been 30 years since my brother died after shooting himself in the head in our family’s shop. I was holding our newborn son, Matthew, when I got the phone call from my mom. She had just found my brother … dead. I cried and screamed in disbelief. He left a wife and two beautiful daughters, a mother and three sisters, and numerous friends and relatives.
We are all changed. Sometimes it seems like a long time ago and sometimes it seems like yesterday, but it always seems preventable to me. My aunt and my cousin died from suicide by guns too.
We must come together with gun owners, the NRA and our legislators and do all in our power to establish a culture of gun safety and to advocate for sensible gun laws and better mental health care for all.
If somebody could embody “dynamic,” that’s who he was. Always smiling and laughing. He was a few years older—the same age as my brother—so our families were close. Like a best friend, a cousin, another brother. Both he and my brother came out as gay in middle school. In a small southern town, that wasn’t easy. But I never could have expected that February morning, when my mother picked me up from class and told me he had killed himself using a firearm. I was overcome by fear, sadness and one unfamiliar feeling.
A few weeks later, my brother made his own attempt on his life, and I pinpointed the feeling: It was anger. I was furious that they had tried to leave us behind; I was furious at both of their schools for not protecting them; I was furious that someone had sold a gun to an 18-year-old. I couldn’t blame them, though; it was perfectly legal.
This anger fueled my activism. Today I am fueled by my love for the other people working for good and by my desire to help other kids survive and find happiness like my brother has. I hope this fuels you, too.
On February 5, 2021, I lost my big brother due to gun violence.
Tushar was my big brother and only sibling. He was killed in a planned home invasion. Tushar was so much more than how he died. He was an entrepreneur, surfer, mountain biker, guitarist, designer, builder, technologist, lover of nature, friend, brother, son, uncle, cousin. We miss him every second. He was taken from this world far too early. He had so much more to give and do.
My name is Carmen Pagan. On January 3, 2016, at 5:59 p.m., my oldest brother, Richard Davila, was shot three times and killed as he made his way across the street to my mother’s home. Richard was caught in between a drug turf war, where the individuals who were standing on opposite sides of West Wishart Street decided to open fire, from one end to the other, at each other. My brother was caught in the crossfire.
After the shots rang out, my mother called my brother’s cell phone to make sure he was OK, and there was no answer. My mother, father and siblings ran out after the shooting ceased and found my brother lying between the sidewalk and street unresponsive. He took his last breaths on that cold sidewalk on that day. My mother called me shortly after, and it is a phone call I will never forget: a mother’s cry for the loss of her son. In October 2020 I would place that same call to my mother, as my son had been shot three times but survived. So many lives changed forever. Too many gone too soon.
My brother was killed in 1998 by gun violence. Not only was he my brother and my best friend, he was a father to me; he was seven years older than me. My brother was smart: He played football and was a straight-A student who studied law. Someone shot and killed an honest man who would have given you anything if he had it. Best brother in the world.
When my brother was killed, I was seven months pregnant. I had my son on the day of his funeral. I couldn’t celebrate my son’s birthday for his first three years of his life because it was also the same day I buried my brother. I went to therapy at the time; I was 26 years old.
My brother was 33 years old when he was killed. I believe what helped me is that I met someone, when I was out one day, who told me he had lost two brothers. Talking to him let me know I wasn’t alone. It was God who had sent this person to me. Angel in Heaven. For three years, I thought about my brother everyday. Now 23 years later, I still think about my brother everyday. My son is 23.
My sister Patty was a witty, compassionate person who was always there for me. Honestly, she was the best sister you could ask for. On September 15, 1997, she was shot several times and killed by her ex-boyfriend after he had kidnapped her and taken her across several state lines. He was a convicted felon who never should have had access to a gun.
Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my sister terribly. After Patty was killed, I never sketched or painted again. It was a gift that both Patty and I were blessed with and a love we shared together.
Losing her haunts and hurts me to this day, though it happened 30 years ago.
My singular, beautiful big sister. She was adventurous, tall, smart and funny. We were close. I looked up to her, and she relied on me. I don’t know the words that encapsulate what sisters have—the loving bond.
My son wants his Aunt Lauren; it’s painful and beautiful to hear him say it. He loves his sister, too, and can’t imagine losing her. And so I ask their friends’ parents: “Do you keep your guns locked up?” The first time I asked, I thought it would embarrass my kids, but they want to know.
It’s been 18 years since my brother Adam took his own life, but I still think about him every day. I still recall the words my mother spoke when she called to tell me: “We’ve lost Adam.”
Adam had struggled with depression for years, though my children never noticed that their beloved Uncle Adam had a problem. Whenever we visited, he was playful and fun; when I told them that he’d shot himself, they struggled to understand.
It was a struggle for me, too. On the day that he died, he had just come home from being hospitalized for suicidal feelings. He was feeling better, he said. Once home, as soon as he was alone, he found the rifle that he’d inherited from our grandfather and used it to kill himself.
Did he lie to the doctors, planning to kill himself as soon as he could be alone? Or did he see the gun and impulsively give in to the feeling that he had been fighting for so long? We will never know. We do know this: We miss him every day.