Pat Mullins

On Sunday, January 27, 2013, my husband took our 16-foot boat out for a quick engine check. Nine days later, his body was found just breaking the river’s surface, tightly wrapped in our boat’s anchor line. He died from a shotgun blast to the side of his head. No arrests were made. No investigation continues.

The Red Cross acted to get our older son home from Afghanistan. Our younger son, in college at the time, returned home to join the marine search for his father. The U.S. Coast Guard searched tirelessly. During this horrific time, many lovely friends and strangers came to assist.

Over the past seven years, both of our children have married. A grandchild was born. Our sons and their wives are excelling. I am so very proud of them. Pat would be too. He would be retired now. He would be the grandpa that he longed to be. Gun violence took him from us and us from him.

Matt

My wife was shot right in front of me at the Route 91 Festival in Las Vegas. She’s alive and mostly well; different though, to say the least. I go back over it often, thinking what I could’ve done differently.

I did everything right immediately after. I was a soldier. I knew it was automatic weapon fire and got us moving. The guy behind us was dead already. I started yelling “take cover” and hustled her over the sound booth crowd wall and around the downrange side by the stairs. I helped my wife and a girl in her 20s who’d been shot through the shoulder, terrified she was going to die on that pavement. It was a bloodbath under there. My shirt went to some wound, my belt went somewhere for a tourniquet.

What sticks with me, though, is the conversation I had with this girl. She kept saying “You have to get me out of here. I’m gonna die here.” I told her, “We have to wait, they’re going to kill him.” Eww. Shame on me. Even under that strain I knew exactly what was happening. How? We let this happen. That’s what I could’ve done differently.

His loving wife Diane

Eight years ago, our family lost a lover of family, friends and life: our Mark. He was shot by our constantly angry neighbor. That individual lost his gun permit twice. And TWICE he was able to get it reinstated.

Maybe not having a permit would not have saved our Mark. That is a recurring nightmare I have. The fact that something might have stopped the gun violence that took our loved one. This is a major flaw in our legal system that I have decided to fight. It took this long because my heart is so broken.

When asked how am I my response is never, “Oh, Great.” I can only respond with being OK. None of our loved ones deserved to be taken from us in such a violent way. We need to continue to fight in their honor. We need to continue to fight so others don’t wake up every day feeling like we do.

Connie M. Simmons

My spouse was experiencing enormous migraines that were a result of multiple traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). Her thinking was compromised, and during the last few months of her life, she was becoming more verbally abusive. We had another fight over nothing, and she had said something that I was walking into the bedroom to hear. She started pulling the trigger at me in the doorway, and I started telling her to stop and put the gun down. She then turned the gun to her head, pulling the trigger continually. In one fast movement she pulled back, armed it and shot herself in the head.

It’s still very fuzzy. I lost the other half of me that morning. My life has changed since I moved back to my hometown of Des Moines. Yet the facts remain the same: I wish there would have been a red flag law then.

Brandi Locke

In 2016, my husband, an Army veteran with four deployments, experienced difficulty processing his experiences and finding his identity outside of the military. One evening, I returned home with my children. As we entered our home, all of the lights were off. We were met by my husband, with an AK-47 strapped around his body. In a very serious voice, he informed me that there were people outside our home. With my coaxing, he returned the AK-47 to his locked gun safe but emerged carrying a bayonet, moving in stealthy motions throughout the home.

Eventually, that evening, the bayonet was exchanged for a pistol. He slept on our sofa with the pistol resting on his chest. I spent the night with my children, locked in a bedroom, terrified, questioning what action would be in the best interest of my children and my husband.

Ultimately, our marriage ended.

Today I continue to experience nightmares about that night. I awaken with the same fear, three years after the event. My thoughts about guns and gun legislation have changed. I hope that U.S. citizens will work cooperatively to legislate changes that make sense and create more security for everyone.

Anonymous

Navy Yard. September 16, 2013: our daughter’s birthday. Another day at work. My husband in building 197 and I in Rockville, Maryland. At 10:30 a.m. I got a text from him, “I’m safe.” He had survived for an hour under his desk while hearing 12 of his colleagues murdered and three injured. He was forced to open his door — assuming it was the gunman — to stare down the barrel of an FBI’s rifle and be whisked out in the stairwell while shots continued to fire.

The Washington Nationals canceled their game and offered the stadium for reunification. Buses brought employees to meet up with their families, but after the last bus, some families realized the horrible truth. Today, a beautiful memorial stands in the stadium as a reminder of that horrible day.

I tell my husband that he’s a survivor, but he doesn’t agree. He just feels lucky. When the shooting began, and it registered in his brain what it was, he turned right and ran. If he had turned left, he believes, he’d be dead.

Michelle

Twenty-four years ago, on August 30, I lost the love of my life, my first love, Wayne Matthews. Of course it was from gun violence! A Vietnam veteran, who was in and out of mental facilities since his time out of the war, walked into our motorcycle shop and shot Wayne at close range. He emptied and reloaded his gun 10 times before he was done. They said, and I pray to the Great Spirit that this is true, Wayne was bent over and never knew what happened. But sadly Wayne wasn’t his first kill that day. A few hours before, he went to a body shop and shot a young man while he was standing next to another young man. This unharmed young man recounted the shooter’s words before he shot his friend. They were, “This is for the children.”

This horrific event happened on a Saturday, and the young man that was shot and killed happened to have his wife and children with him that day at the shop, and they saw everything! I was blessed to be out with a friend that Saturday. Had I not been, my children and I would have been at our shop that day, and only the Great Spirit knows what would have happened! To this day, I don’t understand why this monster, who I will not name, was allowed to have a gun! I don’t feel he deserves notoriety. With his mental troubles, how did this happen? This same man drove around in his Corvette with his license plate that claimed how many Vietcong he had killed!

We must stop the gun violence! We must protect our loved ones, and especially our children!

We no longer have Wayne, and that young man’s wife and children no longer have him.

Terrie Alvarez

My husband, Phillip Kerrigan, had been one of my closest and dearest friends for a few years. He was in the Navy, stationed at the Brunswick Naval Air Station in Brunswick, Maine. Eventually he was discharged and moved to Maryland. I really missed him very much after he left. I eventually moved to Boston, and somehow he tracked me down a few years later. I was so very happy to hear from him again. We met, had dinner and I knew then that he was the person for me.

We got married shortly, and I moved to Maryland. When I got pregnant with our second child, Phillip got a job at Sherwin Williams in Riverdale. On November 9, 1969, I was six months pregnant, and Phillip’s boss asked him to come in for a few hours— I came home from work and Phillip was not home, which was strange since I had the car (we only had one car). I tried to call Sherwin Williams to see if, perhaps, he had worked longer hours, but the line was always busy and I could not get through. A short time later, as I was getting my daughter ready to drive to Sherwin Williams, I heard a knock on the door and opened the door to find a police officer and another gentleman who introduced himself a Catholic priest. The officer told me that there had been an accident, and I remember telling him that this could not be since I had the car. They finally told me that Phillip had been shot during an armed robbery and had died on the way to the hospital. All I remember is that I wanted to run as fast as I could because if I did run this did not happen. The next few days were a blur.

After the funeral, I ended moving back to Maine, where my family was, until my son was born. That was the hardest time of my life. I needed to work, but having a sitter for two children would take my entire paycheck. When my son was a year and a half, I moved back to Maryland, since the job prospects and salaries were better than in Maine. My son had a very hard time not knowing his father. When other children would ask him where his father was, he would tell them that his parents were divorced. Later on, he told me that if he told them his dad died, he would have to say how he died, and that was too painful for him.

McKay

How could a person email the travel agent to firm up plans for a European bike trip with his wife to mark their pending empty nest, send a “get excited!” text, and then within hours, feel such pain that the only perceived option was to shoot himself? Counter to some suicide literature, my beloved Olof did not clean the garage, organize his affairs, appear either more calm or more distressed than was typical, nor did he seem disengaged. He was still actively inserting himself in the tasks of daily life up until he ended that life. Our loving husband and father, our community’s accomplished surgeon and social activist, experienced the most rapid, unalterable, tragic change of mental state possible. In the years since his death, I’ve learned that the neurology of some human beings, particularly those with a history of clinical depression, can be vulnerable to a swift, dark descent into a dissociative state that can result in taking one’s life. It also turns out that it is very easy to act quickly and effectively on the distorted, lethal thinking. Olof’s credit card receipts showed that in the late afternoon on that fateful day, he drove to the local mall, bought a gun and was gone from my world within an hour.

One of the tragic ironies of our story is that Olof was a huge proponent of gun control legislation. Although he had experienced decades without depression symptoms, his commitment to gun control now makes me wonder if at some unconscious level he was protecting himself from a vulnerability of his neurology. The number of people who die by suicide using guns is staggering. It is also preventable. The irreversible death by one’s own hand in those who enter states of irrational, hopeless, dissociated despair associated with a wide range of mental illnesses could be prevented with sensible gun laws that prevent people from acting in the moment.

In the almost eight years since Olof died, I have had the privilege and the sorrow to comfort too many other widows who found themselves confused and full of dismay, wondering what they could have done to prevent their beloveds’ deaths. One thing we hold in common is a wish that the gun had not been so accessible. We also hold a belief that our people might still be here if our wish had been true.

The mechanism of Olof’s death has not stopped us from honoring his incredible accomplishments, most importantly the raising of our three remarkable daughters. While the memories of our joyful family life are sustaining, and we feel deeply grateful for what he gave us, there was just so much more joy to be shared.

Judy Schneider-Wallace

Paul Schneider was a wonderful father to his two children, Jack and Sydney. Paul also struggled with depression. On the first day of school 2011, Paul died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paul was able to buy the shotgun he used just hours before his death, even though he was being seen by two doctors for a clinical depression. Laws are changing by the work at Everytown and by Moms Groups across the country. These changes give me hope for change.