More than 40 years ago, I ducked into a phone booth in Istanbul and called my family. I hadn’t seen them in almost a year. We had kept in touch through infrequent letters as I worked odd jobs and traveled in southern Europe and the Middle East. That phone conversation changed the course of my life.

I learned that my brother had shot himself in the head, but had survived. Suicide, however tragic, offers a grim finality. A failed attempt involving a gun injury to the brain carries another kind of death. His extensive paralysis and brain damage destroyed the brother I had known. The years that followed were extremely difficult, as I attempted to find my footing as a young adult. When he died in surgery 12 years later, the grief that had been building for years was overwhelming.

Too many families each year are traumatized by the aftermath of suicide and suicide attempts. Nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Guns that are properly stored can act as a deterrent to someone in an acute mental health crisis. If you believe you must own a gun, please follow gun safety practices.

Cedric Horatio Frison

There are a number of experiences that I have had related to gun violence. Growing up on the west side of Chicago, I have lost many of my peers to gun violence, on both sides of the fence. I have peers who have passed away as a result of gun violence, and I have peers who were arrested for murder, and who are still incarcerated 20-plus years later.

Today I work as an outreach specialist; my primary purpose is violence prevention. I work with young men between the ages of 18 and 30 years, who are considered at the highest-risk for being a victim of a violent crime or committing a violent crime. I received news two days ago that a young participant who was on my caseload, with whom I worked very closely, was murdered. I myself walk around with a bullet in my body from 1993 as a result of the gang culture that I was a part of. Today not only am I part of the fight against gun violence, I am also a substance-abuse recovery coach and outreach coordinator for NAEFI (National Alliance for the Empowerment of the Formally Incarcerated).

Nancy A. Sullivan

On June 4, 2013, my mom, Nancy Sullivan, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Shoreview, Minneapolis. My mom, my best friend, died of multiple gunshot wounds in front of me. Before he turned the gun on himself and died by suicide, her ex-boyfriend first shot me and my daughter’s dad several times as well.

Fortunately, my daughter did not lose either of her parents that day; however, she lost her grandma, whom she loved dearly, and she has been scarred for life by what took place. No, my daughter was not present when the shooting happened, but that did not stop the ripple effects of devastation from reaching her. It reaches many and does not discriminate. Years later we live the PTSD brought on by guns.

This was the second incident in which I was shot. In 2008, less than a month after giving birth to my daughter, I was shot in a drive-by shooting in south Minneapolis. We have lost other loved ones to gun violence as well, and the impact has been immense. Gun violence has to end. It can end. We are responsible for everyone’s safety.


It was my birthday.

The morning of December 5, 2006, was the morning of my 26th birthday. It’s also a day that forever changed my life. Two weeks prior to that date, I had reconstructive surgery on my knee.

That morning I woke up to the sound of gunfire. The first burst of shots woke me up; I was not quite sure what was happening. The second burst, I realized that someone was shooting. I sat myself up, while my leg was still immobilized from surgery, and tried to get on the floor. Before I could get there, the third burst of shots came, and a round penetrated the wall behind me, striking me in the back. I blacked out shortly after.

When I awoke, I had no spleen, a collapsed lung, multiple tears to my intestines and a feeding tube.

Physically I have recovered as best as anyone could. Mentally, I will never fully recover. I suffer from PTSD, anxiety and depression as a result, and every year, as my birthday approaches, I am painfully reminded of the day I almost died.

Lynne Atkins Bassell

Life can change in an instant. On June 16, 1978, I was 19 and at a Giants game at Candlestick Park. I was standing next to my bright orange Chevy Vega when I felt a powerful force that knocked me to my knees. I saw a hole in my coat and blood dripping. I said to my friends “You guys, I think I got shot.” How I knew I had been shot is still a mystery to me, as there was no sound or warning event. My boyfriend found a security guard who drove me to San Francisco General Hospital, where the doctors and team found that I had a .38 slug lodged near my spine. It entered on my abdomen above my hip bone and damaged my intestines before landing a few centimeters away from my spine. I was so very lucky to have the outcome that I did. I live with this little reminder of just how much damage caused by guns in the wrong hands. With each mass shooting that happens, my positive attitude and PTSD get triggered, which sends me into a panic and depression. I will never stop fighting for everyone’s safety.

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.


My ex-wife, after several years out of marriage, found herself with a house, husband and two sons that she loved but also hated. She had very low self-esteem and did not effectively communicate her concerns to people who loved her. One day it all came to a head as she became very agitated and out of control. Late that night, as I slept in bed, she shot me in the head. The bullet was a magnum higher powered projectile and so went straight through just below the brain, lodging in the opposite side of my skull rather than moving up in the direction of least resistance into my brain. I refused a request to press charges because I cared for her and felt guilty that I obviously couldn’t figure it all out. Also, jail time would do no good for our sons. She spent two months in a psychiatric facility and got some old, unresolved family-of-origin issues identified. The doctors said she would have either killed herself or harmed someone she cared about to change her old patterns. We remained married for an additional 10 years with some of her old patterns still haunting her.

Tom Bissonette

I worked the late shift and stopped to eat on the way home. After leaving, I was ambushed – a gun pointed at my head. The robber ordered me to drop my wallet and walk away.

After I got about 30 feet from him, I heard the gunshot and felt it rip through my skin on the right side of my back. I knew I was hit but had no idea how badly. I made a split-second decision to act as if I wasn’t wounded. I believed that if he knew he hit me he might feel more inclined to finish the job. Terrified, but relieved, I heard him drive away.

I was bleeding, and I called for help. When I arrived at the ER, they told me that if the bullet had been even a quarter-inch to the left, it would have entered my chest cavity and destroyed vital organs. It’s a miracle I survived.

I suffered from PTSD for years, and my family suffered too. I eventually decided I would not let this incident control my life. I don’t live in fear anymore, but I’ll never forget. Some bullets ricochet in hearts and minds forever.

Eugene Kelly

On June 28, 2010, I was working in a convenience store in Lakeview, North Carolina. Four young men robbed the store. Shot my husband, which was fatal. Also shot me. They were all captured. Took four years in court. All were convicted. Court was Moore County, Carthage, North Carolina. You never forget the nightmare. Something always comes up to remind you.

Lauren Stumbo Burkum

On a sunny Friday in July 2006, I received a phone call that no one should. Through tears and crying, my then 14-year-old daughter strangled out “Mom, Cherie’s been shot.” The phone was handed off to one of my sister’s colleagues, who gave me more information. My sister had been shot in the arm. I called my Mom. Her daughter was at Harborview, and her granddaughter was with the police. It would not be until later that night, after driving five hours from home to my Mom’s, that I would find out that not only had my sister been shot — and in the stomach, not the arm — but that my daughter had been held at gunpoint in the entrance to the Jewish Federation.

The shooter robbed my daughter of her innocence, her teens (she does not remember ninth grade) and so much of her time. To this day, she spends so much of her week dealing with anxiety, chronic/traumatic pain and lots of self care. He robbed my sister of years of her life recovering. He robbed my time, too.

I fight gun violence now with Moms!