Every year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.
I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.
On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.
We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.
There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.
What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.
There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what. Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:
Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.
The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.
Yes. We can save lives.
Let’s do it together.
There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.
That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.
The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.
It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.
We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.
At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this- making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.
Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.
And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.
And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.
We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.
Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school
When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.
On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.
As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.”
Nothing could be more true.
I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more. It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.
In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.
Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.
This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.
Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.
I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.