Kevin, a fellow cyclist of my sister in the NorCal AIDS Cycle, asked his friends these questions when he posted a link to my Gun Deaths Since Newtown blog. He asked his friends to read every single name on the list because so often we’re anesthetized by anonymous numbers. He then asked them this:
- Look at each name, age, town.
- Look at the number of young adults.
- Look at the number of teens.
- Look at the number of pre-teens.
- Look at the number of children who have not even entered 1st grade.
- How many are your age?
- How many lived in your home state?
- Your hometown?
I started out making this list of names because I wanted to show the sheer magnitude of gun deaths since Newtown. As I toiled away entering each name, age, city, and state (it took DAYS to initially get all of the information entered), I began to wonder about each person, their families and friends, the tragic situations they faced their final hours or minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder how different things would be for every single one of them if a gun was not involved.
I started my professional career running support groups of parents of murdered children and suicide survivors. I was the chaplain at the scene of gun suicides and present when families identified murdered family members. I’ve also been questioned about parishioners who were gun violence perpetrators and called in for community programs after a gang-related drive-by shooting or other teen gun death. I’ve witnessed the shattering of families because a child died in a gun accident. The only thing that’s changed over the years is there are more gun death incidents.
Most of us have been impacted in some way by gun violence. Each name on The List represents someone who was a son, daughter, partner, husband, wife, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, cousin, friend, colleague, neighbor, acquaintance to someone else. We may not even know the secret shame another may carry because they or someone they love was involved with a gun death.
It’s time to ask ourselves Kevin’s questions. At the very least, we can acknowledge each life represented and hold those grieving from this horrible loss in our thoughts and prayers.
By the way, I selected December 14, 2012 as a reference point because of the tragedy in Newtown. It was also the day I officiated my brother’s memorial service. His was also a gun death.