Survivors Speak!                              February 2023

Facing the Storm Undaunted


Last month, we profiled Mary Kay Mace, a mother whose 19-year-old daughter Ryanne was murdered 15 years ago on February 14, at Northern Illinois University. Of course, February 14 is also synonymous with the killing of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, five years ago. This year, on the eve of those massacres, three students were shot to death at Michigan State University on February 13. Ever since her own tragedy, Mary Kay has anticipated days of grief crowding the calendar.

We are heartsick, but not surprised. Since the beginning of 2023, mass shootings have outpaced the days in the year, with 94 mass shootings (defined as 4 or more people shot) between January 1 and February 28, 2023. Like Mary Kay, we also anticipate days of grief crowding our calendar, but we march forward and refuse to be deterred by this storm of violence.

Before the MSU horror, there were already shocking incidents of gun violence on a monumental scale that stained the beginning of 2023. We’ve been talking with some of the traumatized survivors, sharing our perspective through interviews, and passing along the toolkit we created to aid survivors in the aftermath of their new realities.

As many of you know, we will be spending much of this year in Mexico, creating a space for other survivors to join us for mindfulness meditation retreats as they journey through the pain and bewilderment that gun violence creates. But this month, we’ve been here in the United States as the bullets have flown and more hearts have been broken.

In early February, our friend Gabby Giffords was to meet us at a town hall but contracted Covid the day before she was to leave. It was very disappointing for everyone concerned, but we had a productive and meaningful time with all at the event. Check out the pictures, below.

In this newsletter, we profile Sheree Kennon, another mother who has turned pain into purpose.

People of all races have been fatally shot this year - but we would be remiss not to mention the devastatingly high toll of gun violence in the Black community. Representative Lucy McBath, a black mother whose son Jordan was murdered in 2012, addressed her own tragic loss recently in an op-ed published by USA Today.

We find solace in the embrace of dear friends and allies we’ve had the chance to see face-to-face this month. It is good to share with like-minded people and work toward change. But the frustration and anguish we feel at the slow pace of gun-safety legislation is more than just a small shadow. We will not, we cannot, stop until our policymakers do better than the halting progress we’ve seen. And we know full well that disastrous misinterpretations of the U.S. Constitution by the courts are costing lives as well.

In this issue, we share with you some of the recent survivors' comments that are cries from the heart, and we share news coverage as well.

We’re gratified that the Colorado Sun wrote in detail about our efforts to eliminate statutory protections for gun manufacturers that make them nearly immune from lawsuits, and expose plaintiffs to the kind of risk that led to our bankruptcy when we tried to hold an ammunition maker responsible for their conduct. We also thank Gays Against Guns for featuring us on their podcast.

Please reach out if you are in need. We have assembled a list of trauma-based therapists, as well as BIPOC therapists. We have also assembled rapid-response teams across the country who can be of special comfort, because they can say, “We’ve been there.” Beyond our toolkit and our advocacy, we remain listening ears.

Peace and love,

Sandy and Lonnie  

Survivor Comes To Aid of Other Mothers

On Mother’s Day 2021, Sheree Kennon sat locked in her bedroom, alone except for a bottle of Crown Royal whiskey and grief.

But that moment became one of two key events that altered her path and the fortunes of other mothers who have lost children to gun violence. 

Those moments fueled the birth of  What About Us, an organization based in Birmingham that holds a monthly support group where mothers can share their grief, anger and other emotions about losing loved ones, helping each other heal. 

Read more here

Access To Justice For Victims
Survivors, lawyers and advocates gathered at First Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado, on Feb. 8 to demand justice for survivors. Colorado gives gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from lawsuits and holds grieving survivors liable for legal fees if their cases are dismissed. The Gun Violence Victims Access to Justice and Firearms Industry Accountability Act, sponsored by state Sen. Sonya Jaquez Lewis, would reverse that immunity and the injustice it allows. 
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.
What Survivors Are Saying

“We asked every shop owner and clerk working that day — we said, ‘If this person comes in and wants to buy a firearm, please call us; don’t sell him a gun right away,’ … In each store, person after person said, ‘There’s no reason we shouldn’t sell him a gun.’” Mary Miller, whose brother died by suicide

“To conquer this, it’s not just learning about a tragic situation, absorbing it and getting callous to what’s happening. We have to get involved.” Claude Motley, a violence-prevention activist and subject of a PBS documentary, “When Claude Got Shot”

“I always had a very strong belief that I would walk again, and that I would work my way back to being myself on the football field.” Jordan Fayson, who has been invited to walk on at Syracuse University

“It felt terrible, especially because I knew that another community would be hit with irreversible grief, and I think that’s something that no one should ever have to experience in their lifetime.” Jackie Matthews, who has lived through two school shootings

In The News

The Giffords Law Center released a memo highlighting the disproportionate toll of gun violence on Black Americans, who die from firearms at 2.4 times the rate of White Americans.

State legislators in Michigan have introduced a package of bills aimed at reducing gun violence, including ones that would require universal background checks and safe storage. The bills were first filed three days after a gunman took the lives of three students at Michigan State University on Feb. 13. 

Nearly one in four guns used in crimes between 2017 and 2021 and traced by law enforcement had been sold by a retailer less than one year earlier, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

About 100 crime survivors rallied in Phoenix, Arizona, for more services and resources, including a trauma recovery center and a compensation fund for victims. 

The West Virginia Legislature passed a bill that legalizes the carrying of concealed weapons on the campuses of public colleges starting in July 2024. It was opposed by the presidents of West Virginia University and Marshall University. 

In the face of unrelenting violence, we remember our daughter's words:

“I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift." 

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

We also have a series of buttons that can be ordered at



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