The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Jessica Curran-Lamoureux of South Portland is a volunteer with Moms Demand Action and a member of the Everytown Survivor Network.
When it came to politics, I spent years uninvolved. Only recently have I gotten off the sidelines and thrown myself into advocacy. What changed? For me, it all started when I got the worst news of my life.
It came in the form of a call from my father, who was battling a progressive neurodegenerative disorder at the time. My father’s voice broke with emotion as he said, “It’s Jonny. Shot dead in Oakland.” I could hardly believe what I was hearing, but it was true: my younger brother Jon had been shot and killed while innocently eating a piece of pizza on an Oakland, California, sidewalk, murdered by a convicted felon who had illegal access to a gun.
Tragically, the shooter took another life: our father’s. The night my brother was killed was actually supposed to be his last in the Bay Area; the next morning, he was planning to move to Oregon to be closer to our father, to help with his care. So when my brother was killed, my father’s will to fight his disease took a big hit. He died two years later, another of the two lives taken by a single bullet.
In recent years, I’ve tried to turn my grief into action, just like my brother would have if I’d been the one killed that night instead of him. That has meant getting involved in gun violence prevention work, advocating for gun safety bills here in Maine and in Congress and doing whatever I can to make sure that no other family has to get the call I got five years ago. And throughout this journey, I’ve learned a very important lesson: the stories of survivors have the power to create monumental change.
Unfortunately, the number of Americans who have been touched by gun violence continues to grow. By early February, more people in America have been killed with guns than are killed with guns in other high-income nations in an entire year. And for every American killed by guns, there are more than twice as many who go on to survive their wounds, but carry the trauma of gun violence with them each and every day. That’s why I’m proud to be part of National Gun Violence Survivors week, the first week in February, as a time when we come together to share and amplify the stories like mine and so many others.
During National Gun Violence Survivors week, I will join survivors from across the country in sharing our stories on the Moments That Survive wall. While every story of gun violence is different, we don’t have to face these life-altering experiences alone. This is just one way to remember our loved ones and understand how our stories fit into the larger picture of gun violence in this country, and is a crucial part of the healing process. More importantly, it’s exactly the kind of empowerment survivors need to turn our pain into purpose.
Here in Maine, we can’t accept the myth that our state is immune to gun violence. Gun suicide is responsible for nearly 90 percent of all gun deaths in the state, and for every death there is a family and community left reeling. We need comprehensive gun safety legislation to prevent gun suicide on the state and federal level. And with the strongest gun safety administration in American history now taking office, I’m more hopeful than ever that we can strengthen our entire nation’s gun laws and save lives.
So I’m writing today to ask my community and my lawmakers to please remember my brother, my father and the many thousands of Americans who are killed or wounded by gun violence each year. Gun violence is more than a statistic or talking point — it’s a public health crisis that has stories and names. And the best way to remember and honor the lives taken by gun violence is with action.
I pray that no one has to go through what my family has been through. Don’t wait until your family is affected to get off the sidelines. Join survivors of gun violence in calling for laws that will save lives during National Gun Violence Survivors Week and everyday after.
For those who need help: call the Maine Suicide Prevention Program’s toll-free crisis hotline at 1-888-568-1112 or nationwide at 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.