Gavin’s Mom

My son’s name is Gavin. Not was, but still is: Gavin. And I am his voice now. Gavin only got to be five years old for 12 short days. Ten years ago, one day after Thanksgiving, my son got hold of his daddy’s duty weapon. He shot himself in the face and passed away.

We as parents must keep these guns out of the reach of our children. I assumed I had the safest house, living with a police officer. But with the gun being locked, cocked and ready to rock, it took my son’s life in a matter of seconds. I mourn my child every day and now am fighting almost 19 months for a change in how we keep weapons. But it is a fight I cannot do alone. It’s too late for my child. But not for yours. Please think about it.

Cadet Aurora McCarter

She wanted to make a real change. She was at Purcell Marian High School, in her junior year. A police cadet, working full-time at McDonalds. She was very determined and focused on ultimately being a FBI Agent. She had a savior complex: She felt as if she could help those whom people and society would write off. She always stood for what was right and desired to make a serious change in our system.

However, in Cincinnati, on August 14, 2020, my Aurora was murdered. A 16-year-old boy bought an illegal gun from an adult man. The 16 year old decided to rob the man, and shots were fired. My Aurora was shot, one single time—gone. Everything she wanted to be, and it’s like this: Just gone? No!

The 16 year old is charged! Aurora, 17 years old, murdered—the equation doesn’t add up. I dread awakening every day without her. Life doesn’t seem real, isn’t real! She had everything, and she was everything I ever wanted to be. I, as her mom, put everything I had into molding her, and I just can’t believe I’m here in this world without my beautiful Aurora. Say her name: “Cadet Aurora McCarter.”

Eric

My son Eric was shot at age 18, on February 27, 2020, by his friend while disabling a gun.

Kittie Ryan McMillan

My son Tim was 41 years old when he was struck down by a stray bullet that came through the wall of his home. He was sheltering two young girls that had run from a party next door to his home when gunfire broke out. He left behind a wife and a five-year-old son. Tim was a well-known and well-loved musician in the Carbondale, Illinois, area.

I have many memories of Tim. He was good, and kind, and he had a twinkle in his eye. He was an amazing father to Jake. Nothing will ever take those memories away from me. I am sad for the memories I will never have the opportunity to make.

I will never have the memory of my son teaching his son to ride a bike or catch a baseball. I will never have the memory of seeing the joy on my son’s face as he watched his little boy open Christmas gifts. I will never have the memory of seeing my son and his wife welcome another child to their family.

I cherish the memories of Tim that I have, but I mourn those that are lost.

Bob and Tricia Skinner

Our son and only child was killed in an “accidental shooting” by a “friend” on August 23, 2019. He would have turned 23 years old on January 31, 2020. We are still waiting to hear if charges will be filed. Our hearts are broken into a trillion pieces. Our lives changed forever on August 23, 2019. We hope and pray that this never happens to anyone else!

Vada Vasquez

On November 16, 2009, I was a victim of senseless gun violence. I was shot in the head by a stray bullet while waiting for the bus to go home from school. I remember waking up in a hospital, unable to move or speak. It’s been 10 years, and I am still in therapy. Some days I wish I died in that coma because I struggle every moment with PTSD, depression, disassociation disorder and seizures. I spent two weeks in a coma, then I learned that the bullet damaged the cognitive portion of my brain so I had to relearn everything. I went from being a high school student to having the mental ability of a kindergartner. Today I am still in college. I tried to make something of myself after my ordeal; I’ve managed to keep a job for eight years now, but I still do have my dark moments that force me to take a leave of absence. I will never give up on this life. No matter how bad it gets. My name is Vada Vasquez, and I am a Gun Violence Survivor.

Sylvia Banks

I was blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren, six of whom are living. Micheal took his own life when he was just 10. Micheal would have been 15 this July. He had the most beautiful smile, so much like his mothers’. He was a well-rounded, engaged, happy kid. No one would believe that Micheal was a suicide risk!

My son and daughter-in-law felt they had done everything right. They spent many hours teaching their children about gun safety, that they were dangerous and should never be touched unless an adult was present. By keeping a loaded gun on a top shelf in their closet, they felt they were protecting their family. Little did they know that the harm would come from within.

Despite all of careful admonishments never to go into the closet, my 10-year old grandson did just that, took the gun and turned it on himself. We can only guess why. Was it a moment of desperation after a bad day?

My family has been devastated by Micheal’s death. It breaks my heart to see them suffer so!
To honor Micheal’s memory, I fight to strengthen gun laws.

Christine Castillo

Manny was only 14 years old when a friendly get-together with an unsecured gun led to his death. Although Manny was not my brother by blood, we were family nonetheless. This was the first and only time I witnessed my strong, stoic father fall apart in agony. Being only 10 at the time, I struggled to understand why this happened and to really believe he was gone. I didn’t know how to help, and I didn’t want to need to be taken care of.

At his funeral, I remember trying to stay out of the way but also feeling incredibly sad and confused. I found myself alone, next to his casket. I remember willing him to breathe again and imagining that it worked. That day, I learned that children can die too and that safety and security are not inherent. I also learned funeral etiquette, which would serve me well for two additional funerals I would attend, due to gun violence, before my 16th birthday.

I work to prevent gun violence to honor Manny, all of the children that have died and those left behind to make sense of it all.

Cole

On May 15, 2017, my son Cole was put down for a nap in the master bedroom of his babysitter’s, although he was only supposed to nap or play in the spare bedroom.

He found a loaded, unlocked handgun and fatally shot himself. He had just turned four.

We celebrated Cole’s fifth and sixth birthdays at the cemetery.

A car or bedside gun safe gives you instant access to your firearm without allowing anyone else access. This style of safe costs from $100 to 200. If everyone who has a gun for protection at night or in their car used this type of safe, we could save children like Cole.

Cole, I pray you’re looking down on me and that I am making you proud. I miss you more than words could ever say. Today my heart breaks a little more, as you are heavy on my mind. I just miss your smile lighting up the room. I love you so so much Cole.

Kelly

On August 4, 2006, my mother was shot and killed in a random act of violence.

My mother was standing outside of a grocery story in Detroit. She was one of three people who were killed that night. At the time I was 15 years old, and the grief was so overwhelming that it took me years to start processing it.

My mother was one month away from her 40th birthday the night she was killed. She had a full life ahead of her, and she has missed out on so much over the past 13 years. There is nothing that can bring her back, but I share my story as a way to keep her memory alive.