May 2021 Newsletter

Survivors Speak!                                                                                                                                                                            May 2021
New Signs of Hope Amid The Onslaught

Last year’s pandemic was not the only disaster. As we noted in our April issue, it was also the worst year for gun violence in two decades. These last few months have brought a renewed and relentless burst of mass shootings across a country already shell-shocked. Each new paroxysm of violence shakes us to our cores. But we are seeing something else — an increasing number of people, and policymakers, recognizing that this bloodshed must end, and that they can do something about it. We want that positive spirit to animate a new round of progress. It has been far too long since we’ve had meaningful gun control legislation, but it may be that we’re reaching a tipping point. In this issue, we tell you more about our recent trip to Washington, and what we hope to see in coming months. We were buoyed by the access we had, and the reception we got. We also interview one of our allies and friends, the terrific John Rosenthal, whose wisdom about establishing goals, building support and producing change we so appreciate. We believe it’s possible to break the impasse that has frustrated and grieved us for so long, and finally start improving our country’s safety. John has some very specific tips and ideas on how to make that happen.   We’ve embarked on another project — creating a toolkit that will address both what survivors need to know at various stages of their journeys, and the opportunities they have to work toward change. We’ll let you know more as we’re further along.   Because of the unabating gun violence all around us, we are appealing to our friends to support our Mindfulness Meditation program. We have been preparing survivors to train as mindfulness meditation teachers, so they can help heal that ever-increasing fraternity of parents, spouses, children and siblings who know the same sorrow. We are grateful for any contributions you can make.  Despite continuing tragedies and traumas, we are re-energized by the many collaborations and signs of hope — buoyant like the spring — that we are finally seeing. May each of these buds flower.   Yours in solidarity, Sandy and Lonnie

Taking Our Message to Washington, D.C. 

Sandy & Lonnie at DC rallyThe last week of April was very eventful.   After 15 months of not going anywhere without a mask and staying 6 feet from anyone, we were on our way to Washington, D.C. — fully vaccinated and ready to participate in a press conference with the “Time is Now Coalition,” a broad alliance of over 80 gun violence prevention organizations.    The day after President Joe Biden gave his State of the Union address on April 28, gun-violence survivors gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol and live-streamed our own State of the Union. Sandy and I stood with 20 other victims and survivors to call on Congress, the Senate and President Biden, demanding that they prioritize gun reform now. (You can go to Facebook by clicking here and see the Time is Now Coalition in action.)   While we were in D.C. we were able to have a one-on-one with Cedric Richmond, a former congressman who is now senior adviser to President Biden. Along with five other members of the Time is Now Coalition, we laid out our priorities on gun reform, including the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which gives the firearms industry immunity from civil lawsuits. Mr. Richmond was very candid in his responses to our demands and asked for written specifics that we could discuss in a follow-up call in the near future.   We were also very fortunate to have had lunch with David Chipman, President Biden’s nominee for the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and his wife. We met David eight years ago. At that time, he had already been heavily involved in promoting firearm safety for years.   David is a decorated law enforcement professional and a veteran ATF special agent. We have worked closely with David professionally and know him on a personal level. He is smart, he is principled and he is fearless. He is a gun owner who is passionate about reducing gun violence. He is uniquely qualified to lead the ATF because of his experience, his integrity and his honesty. We are thrilled that we are finally going to get a director who has the credentials to lead the ATF to a new level of excellence.  

How Massachusetts Advocates Won Reforms: An Interview with John Rosenthal

John RosenthalJohn Rosenthal is not only a gun owner and businessman, but also a veteran activist who started his activism protesting against nuclear weapons, and founded a nonprofit to aid homeless people in Boston. So when he and the late Michael Kennedy, nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and son of the late Attorney General Bobby Kennedy, teamed to buy a parking garage overlooking the busy Massachusetts Turnpike in 1991, they decided to erect a billboard promoting gun violence prevention.

With support from friends like the singers Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt, they installed a 250-foot-long array of pictures of young people whose lives were taken by gun violence. The billboard garnered a lot of attention, not just from drivers on the turnpike, but from local newspapers, the New York Times and state and national elected officials, including President Bill Clinton.  Read more here

Survivors Share Tears, Stories In Podcast Interview

They cried, they told of their trauma and they shared encouraging words with each other.   On May 14, Sandy Phillips joined a woman who survived the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016, and a woman who survived the King Soopers Supermarket shooting in Boulder, Colorado on March 22 of this year, for an interview on the podcast hosted by Sherry Amatenstein.   Phillips and the two women talked about the importance of therapy and the unique ability of shooting survivors to help others who have experienced the same trauma. “It may always be a part of them if they don’t seek out treatment,” Sandy told Amatenstein.   Listen to the full interview here.  

In the News

The Washington Post writes about the nomination of David Chipman to be director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  The New York Times chronicles the surge in gun purchases during the pandemic.  A federal judge rejected the NRA's request to declare bankruptcy as an attempt to avoid a lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general's office against the organization.  A poll by Giffords found that nearly 80 percent of Texans support federal universal background check legislation. Another poll by the gun safety organization found that 86 percent of Floridians support the same legislation.  A Denver police sergeant whose personal AK-47 was used by a friend to kill a 21-year-old woman last year during an argument has resigned.  Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill passed by the state Legislature banning open carry of weapons at the state Capitol and public protests. 

Published in October 2019, Tragedy in Aurora: The Culture of Mass Shootings in America, is Tom Diaz's account of the death of Lonnie and Sandy Phillips' daughter, Jessi, and the political polarization and stagnation behind the country's failure to enact common-sense policies to stem gun violence. 

The book can be found on Amazon here.    

Help For Survivors
  • Survivors Empowered has a roster of dedicated trauma therapists who help survivors of gun violence heal from the aftermath. Visit our website for more information. 
  • We continue to look for volunteers across the country who want to help build coalitions and work with survivors of gun violence in their states. If interested in supporting our efforts, please contact us here.

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