My family’s brush with gun violence happened 17 years ago, but I still remember it vividly. My oldest sister called me in late in the afternoon on May 18, 2002. Our 76-year-old dad was in the hospital but he was OK, she stressed, before dropping the more shocking news.  Our dad was at the hospital because he’d been shot.

“Shot? You mean like with a gun?” I remember asking, disbelieving such a thing could even be possible.

It made no sense. Our parents had been visiting our sister and her family in Florida. It happened while they were golfing. My parents were heading toward the 7th tee when they heard a bang. Dad said he felt something hit him in the chest. He thought he’d been hit by a golf ball. Then he saw the blood.

What happened to my family is unfortunately not unique. Lots of people seem to know someone – a relative or an acquaintance – who’s been affected by gun violence.

In 2017, gun deaths reached their highest level in at least 40 years, with 39,773 gun deaths across the U.S.Gun deaths increased by 16 percent from 2014 to 2017, and nonfatal firearm injuries are also on the rise, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center. 

In Virginia, 140 people have been killed by gunfire since Jan. 1, and another 369 were injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive. 

On average, Virginia has about 264 gun-related homicides and 623 gun-related suicides annually, also according to the Giffords Law Center.

The numbers, however dramatic, don’t compare to the gut punch that accompanies the personal blow of gun violence. 

That’s no doubt why so many survivors turn to activism, like former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the namesake of Giffords Law Center. Giffords narrowly survived being shot in the head outside a Tucson grocery store in 2011, an incident that left six people dead. 

Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun-control group, is full of such survivors. Its website is a virtual repository of hundreds of sad stories about loved ones’ lives shattered by gunfire: A mother and sister shot while shopping at the mall; a husband shot and killed at work; an 8-year-old son shot in the face while playing in the backyard, a brother shot in an armed robbery, and on and on.

Our family was fortunate. My dad was released from the hospital in just a few hours after being treated for what was a superficial wound. The bullet only grazed the front of his chest. The police scoured the golf course for the bullet or other evidence, but never found any.

In 2006, we learned that my dad’s shooting matched the description of one of several Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger of the infamous D.C. snipers, said he and John Muhammad committed on their way to Washington, D.C. from Washington state. Over several months, the two shot 27 people, 17 fatally. Their victims included “two old guys on golf courses,” one in Arizona and one in Florida, Malvo told police. The latter was my dad. 

Unfortunately, we lost my dad to heart disease in 2011. But we are forever grateful that our family’s brush with gun violence didn’t steal him from us nine years sooner. 

It’s not clear whether any of the gun laws currently under consideration by state and federal lawmakers could have stopped the D.C. snipers. But it’s possible that a “red flag law,” had it been in place, might have inspired someone in Muhammad’s orbit to recognize his instability and report him, allowing a judge to rule him incompetent to retain his guns. There’s at least a possibility that might have occurred. Maybe.

Those who advocate for red flag laws and stricter background checks, two measures President Trump recently said he could support, say they know such measures won’t eliminate all gun violence. They can’t. The hope is they might prevent some future deaths.

In the wake of the recent mass shootings in Ohio and Texas, state and federal lawmakers seem finally ready to adopt such laws in an effort to try to stem this deadly epidemic that has touched so many families.

Does your family have a gun violence story? Or, do you know someone whose life was protected because of a gun? If so, we invite you to write to us and share it. This could finally be the moment when our personal stories could make a difference. Maybe.

--Jill Palermo, managing editor of The Prince William Times

Reach the Prince William and Fauquier Times at

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(3) comments


"Does your family have a gun violence story? Or, do you know someone whose life was protected because of a gun? If so, we invite you to write to us and share it. This could finally be the moment when our personal stories could make a difference. Maybe."

Ms. Palermo you seem to have taken an unusual step forward with the invitation for stories representing both sides of the gun coins. If you are earnest then let us (me) invite you to use your expertise by investigating thousands of articles and testimonies that support gun owners rights published by the NRA and the US Concealed Carry Association to name just two.

You will quickly see that gun owners and these organizations together are making very positive and significant progress which you in turn could relate to your readers for their benefit. There is no "maybe" involved this way. Maybe and hope only matters in emotions and politics sort of like close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.


ive seen Giffords shoot a semi automatic weapon and shes pretty good at it because of some sickos no need to take away guns thats not the answer how did these people get the gun all kinds of red flags went up with the guy in dayton but nothing happened


While my sympathies goes out to any one whose lost a loved one, or had a friend or family member injured due to gun fire. I too, lost a very dear girlfriend (had hoped to propose to her) to suicide (choosing to use a gun). But while I avoided guns for about a year, I still supported our right to choose to own one or not.

Every time there is a shooting (that is selectively over or under reported by the media), people cry out for gun bans, red flag laws, and background checks. Why? Because guns are the "low hanging fruit" and it's easier to target guns than the variety of real issues that leads some one to pull the trigger. In truth, a gun is just a "tool" of choice by the individual; they could have used a rental van/truck laden with home made explosives or used a knife to attack others, or multiple choices to end their lives. If guns kill people (on their own power), mine are defective because they've never fired until someone pulled the trigger.

The unrecognized problem with gun laws is that people intending to use guns illegally have at some point decided not to obey the laws. Hence, only law abiding citizens are affected by proposed laws. Why should someone have to forfeit or be denied owning a semi-automatic rifle because someone else with personal issues or mental disorders used one in a crime?

Yes, most semi-automatic hunting rifles would be included under the wording of current proposed assault weapons ban, if they fit even ONE of the criteria of the definition. A simple .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle (the kind most kids learn gun safety and how to shoot empty soda cans) would be banned as an assault rifle if it has the capability to hold a magazine of more than 10 rounds.

Back to the point, banning a law abiding citizen's rights to choose to own one based on the actions of others, would be equivalent to you being denied the opportunity to own a car because there's a rise in automobile accident deaths; "if it saved even 1 life it's worth it" mentality.

Again, we hear stories of tragedy caused by gun violence. But we don't hear about the citizens with guns who STOP tragedies to themselves or others because against criminals with guns. There are many stories of good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun that the media won't report because it contradicts their agenda.

Again, its time to really target "why" people commit gun violence or feel the need to take their own lives, target "who" is using guns illegally, and stop picking the low hanging fruit (guns) by targeting "how" the crime or suicide was committed.

Most fail to recognize why the Second Amendment was written in the first place, and why it's so high up on the Bill of Rights. I guarantee you it wasn't because the wild life was attacking. And when we allow the government to chip away at this Right, they'll soon chip away at our other Rights.

We all have the right to choose gun ownership or not. What we don't have, is the right to force our decision onto others.

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