Survivors Speak!                  July 2022
A New Decade Begins

There’s a concept called “anticipatory grief.” It’s about the tension and sadness that accompany the time before a feared event, or loss, happens. For us, our bodies and our souls have been carrying our grief as we’ve counted down the days to July 20, 2022, the date marking 10 years since a mass killer with an AR-15 slaughtered our beloved Jessi.

And yes, we felt the wallop — the pain, the flooding emotions, the dual sense that these past 10 years without our daughter have been unbearably long but have also seemed like an instant. 

And then, on that very day, there was what seemed like a moment of grace. The House Judiciary Committee sent two bills to the full house — markups of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2021 and another bill (the Equal Access to Justice for Gun Violence Victims Act), which would strip weapons manufacturers of the longstanding immunity from civil suits that they should never have had. A week later, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a public hearing in which they questioned the CEOs of two weapons manufacturers about their practices and profits. And then, just before going into recess, the House passed an assault weapons ban! (See our coverage below.)

But political progress was not the only salve for our raw emotions. Every day of the last month — in fact, our entire Honor with Action tour — has been punctuated by beautiful messages and acts of kindness and support from so many allies. In Colorado, on July 18, friends surrounded us with love and hosted a fundraiser for Survivors Empowered. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We also remember Jessi’s words after she survived a shooting in Toronto only seven weeks before having her life taken in Aurora: “Every moment we have to live our life is a blessing…Every second of every day is a gift.” 

So what next? Most of you know that we, along with Giffords, put out a toolkit this year that addresses how new survivors can cope with their upended realities. Amid the ongoing emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil of our loss, we have been able to practice mindfulness and seek peace. We will take part in the free mindfulness meditation program this August that we’ve organized in collaboration with the University of California at San Diego. Please take a look at our website for more information and to join.

Check out the news items and survivors' stories in this issue, and our profile of Dr. Jennifer Miller, a real agent for peace and healing.

We will continue our Honor with Action tour through the end of this year, as we wend our way back to Texas. In September, we’ll be in Colorado again at a Jackson Browne concert that will donate a portion of the proceeds to Survivors Empowered. In October, PBS will air a documentary on gun violence prevention. A portion of the documentary will focus on why we founded Survivors Empowered and what part we have played in the lives of gun violence survivors this past decade. In December, we’ll join other survivors and supporters to remember the 20 children and six teachers whose lives were taken at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Along the way, we’ll be writing and talking and supporting every effort to maintain the momentum for positive change in the gun violence prevention movement. 

In the 10 years since the utter shock and devastation of Jessi’s murder, we’ve built Survivors Empowered, and we’ve built amazing friendships and alliances. What we want more than anything now is an end to the never-ending gun violence in this country that has left so many survivors to cope with their immense grief, and so many of us all to cope with anticipatory grief for the next tragedy. We are doing all we can to bring about that new day. We will take heart that more and more others are walking with us.

With love,

Sandy and Lonnie

Healing and Growth through Meditation

Dr. Jennifer Miller believes in human resilience and the pursuit of happiness, no matter the challenges. With gun violence survivors, she and her colleagues aim to help people explore their suffering, and then give them helpful interventions “to manage it and live a happy life in spite of those things.” 

Trained as a clinical psychologist, Dr. Miller first worked at a hospital with children who had experienced trauma, including domestic violence and child abuse. Later, in private practice, she continued to treat people experiencing a wide range of post-traumatic stress and became familiar with and trained in mindfulness meditation. “I caught the mindfulness bug as many people do, because it's such a wonderful addition in life.” 

Eventually, Dr. Miller joined the University of San Diego’s Mindfulness Center as a staff member. She is now one of the principal teachers in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness Self-Compassion (MSC) programs for gun violence survivors that the Center is offering in collaboration with Survivors Empowered. (New classes start on Aug. 16 and Aug. 30. Visit our mindfulness meditation page for more information.)

Read more here

House Passes New Assault Weapons Ban

Right before recess, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would ban semiautomatic assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices. Although the proposal faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, it is the first time in nearly three decades that such action has been taken.

Approved on July 29, the bill makes it a crime to knowingly manufacture, sell, transfer, possess or import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess assault weapons, whose power to kill a large number of people quickly has made them the tool of choice in mass shootings.

It was the first vote the House has taken on a ban since 1994, when Congress approved a 10-year assault weapons ban that expired in 2004. 

 “It shouldn't be this hard,” said Sandy. “But it's a win that my Jessi and so many other victims of assault weapons deserve,” she said. 

Read more here

What Survivors Are Saying

“I told myself, as long as God gives me the breath in my body, that Evan Marquis Baylor’s dreams and aspirations will not go dead, will not go void, and will not be in vain.” Michelle Parker, who is part of a multimedia project highlighting gun violence survivors

"We have an opportunity to change the trajectory of the community. We must stand together, set boundaries and be the change. If we don't say 'enough is enough,’ who will say it?" Orlando Pannell, speaking at a rally against gun violence in Tupelo, Mississippi

"I hope that they'll respect the stories. I'm also hoping that by listening to the stories that they will help, especially our young people think before they act.” Debra Gillispie, Mothers Against Gun Violence founder, on a mural project in Milwaukee

“We’re not just a town with a tragedy. I wanted to show them what our community is really like. Things do get better with hope, love, and support.” Ava Swiss, who auditioned for America’s Got Talent


In The News

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on July 22 legislation allowing individuals to sue anyone making or selling illegal assault weapons or “ghost guns,” which are untraceable weapons assembled from parts sold separately. The law also applies anyone selling guns to people under the age of 21. 

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords talks about a new documentary that chronicles her recovery from being shot and founding the gun violence prevention organization named for her. 

Congress’ Joint Economic Committee held on July 20 a hearing on the economic costs of gun violence. The hearing
drew testimony from gun violence prevention advocates and researchers.

Shooting survivors from across the country shared
videotaped testimonies during a congressional hearing with the CEOs of two major gun manufacturers held on July 27 before the House Oversight Committee.

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 109-year-old New York law requiring gun owners to show “proper cause” to qualify for a concealed-carry gun permit, Gov. Kathy Hochul and Democratic lawmakers
passed new requirements for licenses and new restrictions on where gun owners can carry firearms.

Researcher Kathleen Carlson talks with Oregon Public Broadcasting about the new Gun Violence Prevention Research Center at Oregon Health and Science University.

Richard Parker, an author and gun owner living in Texas,
condemns the state’s gun culture and laws in an op-ed printed in the Washington Post. 

Tom and Gena Hoyer, whose son was among the students whose lives were taken in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida,
discuss the meaning of justice as the shooter faces his sentencing trial. 

Calling All Artists!

We are grateful for the beautiful pieces of artwork we've already received! We've delayed our auction and display until late in September; there's still time if you'd like to consider donating a piece. Email for more information. Thank you!
Support the Honor With Action Tour

Want to feel part of the action as we travel the country? Want to wear your feelings on your chest?

We've got beautiful hats, T-shirts and other apparel, as well as tote bags, mugs and notecards, available to all via our online Bonfire store. Check out our "Only in America" shirt, with images of three assault weapons.

We will give out pens and notepads as complimentary "swag" at upcoming stops.

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 created, in collaboration with Giffords, a toolkit for survivors, available at in downloadable PDF form at our website
  • 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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