My Beloved Aunt Took Her Life With a Gun. It’s an Image I’ll Never Forget.

Rhonda Gallman

My Aunt Joyce was a beautiful woman in every way. She had an eye for fashion and even worked for a time as a model, but she was so much more than her physical beauty. She was an empathetic and loving mother to her two sons. She couldn’t wait to have grandkids and, when she did, she loved them with her whole heart. She was an animal lover and always had a dog. She loved to travel and wanted to see the world. Simply put, Aunt Joyce loved life and lived it to the fullest. Aunt Joyce was such a … [Read more...]

It Took Just 36 Seconds for a Gunman to Shoot My Son 15 Times

Dana and Peter

I had my son, Peter, when I was young—at just 18 years old. Despite my youth, I was very much looking forward to being a mom and was particularly excited to be having a boy. My dreams came true when Peter was born. He was a beautiful baby with dark hair and a sweet demeanor. Peter maintained this demeanor throughout his life. Everyone enjoyed being around Peter – he was always so happy and positive. I was a single mom and I believe he recognized the difficulties in raising a child alone. He … [Read more...]

I Realized My Son Was Dead When the Hospital Chaplain Asked if He Could Pray with Me

Satedra Smith FOC meta image

It was August of 2015, a Friday, and I was taking my 20-year-old son, Jordan, to the Atlanta airport to catch a shuttle bus back to Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he lived with his dad. Call it a mother’s intuition, but something inside me yearned for Jordan to stay with me a little while longer. On the way to the airport we argued –and I cried—but Jordan looked at me and said, “Mama, everything’s going to be okay. I just want to go home.” Little did I know that this mother’s intuition was … [Read more...]

It’s hard to believe I’m talking about our family when I speak about my father-in-law’s shooting death

Susie Paul de Leede FOC Meta image

My in-laws lived in a beautiful home that overlooked the water. Johan, my father-in-law, loved to sail and dreamed of living on the water. After retirement, they found the home of their dreams and created a sanctuary for their children and grandchildren—a place we could come for rest and relaxation. One of my father-in-law’s passions was gardening and he excelled at it spectacularly. His garden was vibrant and lush. My in-laws were generous in sharing their beautiful home with family and … [Read more...]

My Son’s Childhood Friend Premeditated His Brutal Shooting Death

Tom McMahon FOC_meta image

My son, Joe, was a gentle giant. At 24, he was just under 6-feet-6-inches tall and a talented athlete. But Joe was much more than that: he had a kind soul that attracted a wide spectrum of people including “jocks,” “gamers,” artists, and others. It was July of 2015, and Joe was living with his mom with two sisters, Gracie and Maddie. It was a typical day like any other, but what was a bit unusual was that a childhood friend of Joe’s, whom he hadn’t seen in a very long time, reached out to him … [Read more...]

It took 33 hours for me to learn my son had been killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando

Christine Leinonen FOC_meta image

My son, Christopher, was an easy-going child from birth. He was fun and happy. He used to love taking baths when he was little because I always sang his favorite song during bath time. He used to pretend like he was taking a bath just to hear me sing the song. He enjoyed meeting new people and making friends — he was the epitome of a social butterfly. Christopher was a good student and got good grades, but he also strived for balance in his life and made sure to prioritize spending time with … [Read more...]

Gun Violence has Devastated My Family Five Times

Anthijuan Beeks FOC meta image

The first time gun violence touched my life, I was only two years old. It was 1971 and my uncle was shot and killed by his domestic partner. He was my mom’s baby brother and one of the oldest boys of her siblings, so many in our family looked to him for protection and leadership. After his death, my mother stepped up and took on this role for the family. She was a natural-born leader, so the role fit her perfectly. Seventeen years later, gun violence devastated my life once again. At that … [Read more...]

I Never Expected to Refer to My Son in the Past Tense

Marsha Lee FOC_meta image

There was no one in the world who had a better smile than my son, Tommy. At 20-years-old, Tommy was funny and handsome. Often, other adults would approach me and tell me how well-mannered Tommy was. It felt good knowing he was practicing what we had instilled in him. I never expected to find myself in this situation – referring to my child in the past tense. But that became my reality on August 13, 2008, when Tommy was shot at a store in the suburbs of Chicago. Like too many others, my son’s … [Read more...]

My Daughter Died Because a Loaded Gun Was Left Accessible to a Child

Maureen Pedry FOC_meta image

I had my daughter, Stacey, when I was very young – just 19 years old. At 13, Stacey was a sweet, dimpled little girl with an old soul. When we were low on groceries, it was Stacey who would tell me we needed to go to the store. She was caring and big-hearted, often visiting elderly residents in a nearby nursing home who had no visitors. The oldest of three, she took care of her younger brother and sister. And, she loved to bake. In fact, she loved it so much, she even skipped school once so she … [Read more...]

My Younger Brother Died Trying to Save Our Dad

Stephen Venable FOC_meta image

On a Saturday night in December 2003, I was waiting for a phone call. I was watching football at my home in Los Angeles, CA, but my thoughts were on a different football game taking place in Georgia, where I had grown up. The team on which my dad, Billy Venable, coached and my brother Bill played was competing in the state playoffs. If their team won, they would advance to play in the Georgia Dome the next weekend. “Going to the Dome” had been a goal of the team for a number of years, but it … [Read more...]