Aunt Cheri

My niece was murdered by gun violence when she was 18 years old in Colorado, along with her 16-year-old boyfriend. Both lives were taken too soon.

Anonymous

Three families, linked together by our sons. From grade school into college we enjoyed times together – Packer games, weekends at the Wisconsin Dells, New Year’s Eve parties.

It was an exciting time for our three boys. They all went away to college. It was spring, with freshman finals coming up; they were planning their first summer since being independent at school.

It was all shattered in an instant. Brandon, the younger brother of my son’s friend, who had always been a part of their guy group, died by gun suicide. How could this be? His family had always been involved with hunting and focused on safety. They practiced safe gun storage. Yes, Brandon had a history of attempting suicide and was getting help; those other attempts failed. The gun did not fail.

Two months before he would turn 17 – his life ended. The friendships of our families severed.

This year he would have been 21 years old. We celebrate Brandon. Beautiful, silly and happy. His mom would say he was her buddy – her Mini-Me. He was outgoing, funny, caring, big-hearted and loving. He always had lots of energy and nonstop talking.

Gone too soon.

(Brandon is 3rd from the left.)

Sami

For years I babysat for some neighbors, two boys and a girl who lived a few houses down. I grew close to the family, especially the daughter, who loved that I have thick, curly hair just like hers. Of course, the kids grew up and didn’t require watching, but we kept in touch. When the girl became a teenager, I was preoccupied with my first full-time job and college. We didn’t speak as often; I didn’t know she was struggling.

When she was 13 and home alone on November 30, she took her own life with one of her parents’ guns. My high-school sweetheart told me the news after my shift. I battled depression for over a year afterwards, wishing I had been a better, stronger teenage role model when I babysat her and that I had been there for her when she needed help. The holidays are always hard now. I had my first child this year; I’m hoping that making the holidays special for her will help distract me more than when I’d try to do holiday things on the weekend with my nephews, in previous years.

Latrice Murray

I lost my 17-year-old son, Darreon Murray, in a drive-by shooting after his last basketball game, 11 days before his 18th birthday. He was due to graduate and go off to college. Instead we were planning a funeral. On March 7, 2009, at 1:15 a.m., my life changed forever. My son become the 21st homicide of 2009. It will be 11 years this March, and my son’s homicide is still unsolved.

My son Johnathan

I was married to a man who controlled me, who terrified me. One of his favorites was to either threaten me by hitting me or aiming at me as if he were going to shoot me. He fooled me and the courts and got custody of my son. My final straw was a very severe beating, along with the threat of, “If you ever try to take him, I will kill you, and if I can’t find you, I’ll start with your sister and her three boys.” One more way to control me.

I believed him. I never imagined he would hurt my son.

In June 1983, I received a call where I couldn’t figure out who this person was. Finally she blurted out, “He killed them, he shot and killed the baby [my son] and my mother. They found the bodies on May 11, the day after Mothers Day, he committed suicide by gun!” Without names I knew who she was referring to. My son was four and a half years old. Now I fight gun violence! #Memoriesthatsurvive

Lashianna Vann

As I was folding clothes, devastating news hit me. My 15-year-old son, Telven, had been shot in the head at a basketball game. My nervousness caused my knees to weaken as my heart dropped in my stomach. After craniotomy surgery, he went into a coma. Doctors said that if he survived, his possibilities of remembering, talking or walking were low. We needed a miracle.

The hospital treatment was overwhelming. He fought for his life, and I prayed for the faith. With the prayers of the righteous and extensive rehabilitations, he beat the odds. His life was spared. He did things doctors said he wouldn’t do. We have to believe in God’s report because men say no, but God said yes.

Telven and everyone else had to get used to his new normal. It changed his life drastically. Some sports he can no longer do, and he walks with a limp, but we thank God he’s still here. My heart truly goes out to families who have dealt with gun violence. I pray for justice to all families who have lost loved ones. Guns are not the answer, so I stand against gun violence.

Anonymous

I’m a Southern woman who grew up with hunting guns. They are tools of killing and are to be treated with caution. I’m also someone who…

1. had a coworker point a loaded pistol at me in jest – a joke I didn’t find funny;

2. lived in the dorm (albeit years before) at Virginia Tech where the first murders happened;

3. sat beside a friend and held her hand as she cried for her dead 9-year-old son, killed by the stupidity of an adult who couldn’t be bothered to store a handgun properly;

4. stood beside the coffin of said 9 year old and tried to comfort his grandparents (also friends);

5. found out that there was a shooting in the high school my children attended, and was able to send them back the next day, the day after that, and so on.

We don’t let people operate a 2,000-pound car that has the potential to kill and maim without demonstration of competence and insurance. Why let people have tools designed to kill without the same minimum requirements? That is what a gun is — a tool to kill.

KiKySy3

Hi, my name is Kathryn, and my daughter and two grandchildren were murdered by their husband/father, who also took his own life. Though he had a business, thus able to have a licensed gun, had there been an adequate background check, it would have been found that he was plagued by mental illness — haunted by the guilt of his past. God made the ultimate decision to take them into His loving arms. I hope one day to have a foundation for students interested in performing arts. Kia was a beautiful dancer. They are not physically here on Earth, but never forgotten and with us always in spirit.

ZAEVION W DOBSON

Zaevion Dobson, a sophomore at Fulton High School, Knoxville, Tennessee. He played football, wearing the #24. He was murdered at the age of 15, December 17, 2015, one week before Christmas.

Our son protected his friends from gunfire while losing his own life. John 15:13. No greater love than this young man.

Zaevion is known all over the world as a hero. He left a legendary mark on this earth. His mother and brothers accepted the prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award in June 2016, in honor of his courageous act. The #24 symbolizes his badge of honor. A Purple Heart to Heaven we salute.

Zaevion planned to attend college after graduation. Our son did not walk across the stage to receive his high school diploma. He was very determined to excel. Instead his life was shortened by stray bullets. His innocent life mattered. His leadership, dreams and visions made an impact to those who knew him. Today we raise awareness of the epidemic of gun violence to save lives.

Mama

At the age of 15, my son Willy took his own life with a handgun he was able to get off the streets. He had been with a child psychologist since the age of eight for depression and telling me he didn’t want to live.

I was so careful. I kept guns out of my house, knives, and prescription drugs; I spent hours, days and nights holding him and soothing him. I spent thousands of dollars on weekly visits to his child psychologist. I prayed every day over and over. But what I couldn’t control was the availability of guns even to a 15 year old.

His death was my death also. I function on autopilot. I cry every day. I dream about him every night. And this I have done for 27 years. My heart has never healed. Time does not cure everything. Time adds to your grief because the only way you can stop it is to commit suicide also. I cannot do to my mother what he did to me. I love and miss him with every breath I take. I live to die and be with him again.