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Johnny O’Brien

When I was 3 and my brother was 5, our father shot and killed our mother in an alcoholic rage. He shot her with a far-too-accessible handgun in his truck. He was sent to prison for life, and we were dropped off at an orphanage in Hershey, Pennsylvania. My mother’s family had 14 other children and could not afford to take us in on a miner’s meager income.

My brother, Frankie, was far more traumatized than I by the horror of that night and never fared well in the rough-and-tumble, macho world of the orphanage. He slowly lost his mind and was transferred to a state asylum when he was 14. I felt just as abandoned but used my “unworthiness” to strive for every academic and athletic honor our school offered. I garnered enough of them to become a scholar athlete at one of the world’s best universities.

From there I founded a highly successful leadership training firm to serve Fortune 500 executives, became a Princeton Trustee, raised a loving family, and returned to save the orphanage that had saved my life.

When, in my early 20s, I learned that I still had a living father, I got to know him in prison and learned that his murder of my mother was not premeditated and that he was essentially a good man. The fact that he had anger issues and an alcoholic addiction coupled with easy access to guns everywhere made him a lethal weapon. Now I know that he was a good man and I forgave him, but I can’t forgive our society for making too many guns accessible to troubled folks just to make a profit.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.