“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” How often have we heard that phrase tossed about in conversations throughout political campaigns and efforts to either strengthen or loosen gun control laws in America?
Chances are, you’ve probably formed an opinion on gun control policy if you’ve paid even the slightest bit of attention over the presidential campaigns of 2016.
The data has been collected for years and it’s a slim chance that you won’t listen to, watch, or read a news story about an incident involving guns on any given day.
Incidents involving guns are so prevalent that sometimes it feels like the only thing that is “new” in the “news” regarding death, injury, suicide, homicide, or anything related to these stories are the names of the people who have been affected by that particular events.
In 2010, Monique Nelson was strapping her 2-year-old son into his car seat as they prepared to leave the local mall parking lot in Sacramento, California. A gunfight broke out, and Monique covered her son as best she could with her body.
Seconds later a bullet hit the young mother and killed her. It turned out to be one in 30 shot fired in a violent battle between two gangs.
Had Monique not covered her son with her body, her son would be dead, authorities said.
Monique had gone to the mall that day to have a picture taken of her and her son.
What would have been just a date written on the back of a Christmas photo—December 14, 2010—and added to other memories of Jayden’s childhood was instead the date that was written on Monique’s death certificate, and a day that a son lost his mother and a mother lost her daughter.
Monique’s mother, Deborah, spun into a deep depression that lasted five years, beginning with a knock on her door with news of her daughter.
She didn’t know it then, but five years later she would pen a letter to the Everytown Survivor Network, an organization of survivors that she would become a part of and one that would help her greatly in navigating through the fallout of grief.
In that letter, Deborah described the moment she first heard the news that her daughter had been shot and killed:
“I was in a state of disbelief when I got the call from my son that something had happened to Monique. I remember sitting on my couch, engulfed in darkness, waiting for an update when I heard a knock at the door. Reporters were flashing cameras in my face and telling me how sorry they were for my ‘loss.’ My heart started beating out of my chest and I ended up in the hospital. My baby lay dead in the parking lot of a strip mall, and I could not get to her. Images of her lifeless body on TV are permanently imprinted in my mind.”
Deborah also wrote about how proud she was of Monique. She described her as being loyal and compassionate with a good sense of humor, and what she loved most about her was that she thought “outside of the box.”
She also mentioned the high-powered weapons that were used in the gang war that day, how her daughter had made the ultimate sacrifice, and her wishes for Jayden to fully understand who his mother was and fully understand what his mother did for him that day.
She recalled the details of that day as well. It all happened in the middle of a sunny afternoon at the local mall in a low-crime area.
After years of grieving and coming to grips with her new reality, Deborah wrote: “The truth is, gun violence does not discriminate. It can happen at any time, any place.” That is where she is at today.
The next time you are at the mall, take a moment to think about Jayden, Monique, and Deborah. Look around and count the number of other shoppers that are there with you. When you get to ninety-three, stop, and remember that is the number of people who are shot in America every day with a gun. And then ask yourself, how can I help stop this?
Deborah continues to share her story to help others understand that the politics and the statistics don’t mean much when it happens to you and your daughter and grandson. But she does offer those statistics, knowing that the path to preventing this from happening to others is partially through education and legislation.