In memory of Sandy Hook

Statement on the Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre
Issued during the Candlelight Vigil Against Gun Violence at Judea Reform Congregation, Durham, NC
Sponsored by North Carolinians Against Gun Violence
December 10, 2015

By Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., Executive Director, Murder Victims’ for Reconciliation

As I stand before you on this night of remembrance, I stand for and with those who have lost loved ones to murder. Whether the acts were inflicted on individuals or carried out in mass, the distinct, always sharp pain of losing a loved one at the hands of another remains one of the most disruptive and debilitating experiences people can ever know. For this reason, the members of MVFR graciously yet boldly tell their often unknown stories in ways that build community among victim families while articulating a clear and strong stance against the matrix and machinery of death, particularly state sponsored executions.

Many of our members, like myself, have lost loved ones to gun violence. Eighteen years ago, my younger sister Jennifer lost her life to gun violence just when she was finding her life. This is what gun violence does: it disrespects human life and disregards human potential. From Sandy Hook to Sanford to San Bernardino; from Chicago, Charleston, and Colorado Springs; from Roseburg, Washington DC, and more places than we can name, the corrupt and cowardly use of guns has permanently scarred families, communities, and our nation.

That is why I strongly support and echo President Obama’s remarks on Monday night where he said that “Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. We also need to make it harder for people to buy powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used in San Bernardino.”Right now, if someone is on a no-fly list, they are not flagged when a background check is run on them. They are able to buy a gun. We don’t allow them to fly on planes but they can get a gun, no questions asked. This loophole is a clear and present danger to all people in our nation, and it must be closed and eliminated.

So I say to people of all faiths and to people of no faith, let us blend our energy, effort and insight in ways that can end the arms race currently underway in our own country. Let us, all of us, leave this night resolving to place more confidence in arms designed to hold and heal than arms designed to kill and maim. Thank you.

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Linda Burks Brown, Sister of Willie. Denver, Colorado

Sharing painful stories is hard; yet the more we share the more healing takes place. The pain becomes power; and with power there is freedom. My brother was murdered by his stepson. And, during the same time, my daughter was convicted of a crime that she did not commit. I was living a tale of two scenarios. On one hand I was a crime victim. On the other, I was victimized. I saw the justice systems through very diverse lenses and such was treated in two distinct ways. As a victim of crime, even though I had many needs that weren’t met, I was treated with compassion and tenderness. As a loved one of the accused, I was treated like I committed a crime – with disdain and pity. Regardless, I believe that life is precious. People can redeem themselves; and more importantly, the financial investment of putting someone to death can be redirected to help the families that need it most – usually the victims.

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Bill Thiebaut, District Attorney, Pueblo County, Colorado

As a prosecutor I have worked closely with, and have come to care greatly for, the victims of crime. It is one of my responsibilities to ensure that the needs of all victims are taken care of – that they are informed, present and heard – and that no further harm is done to them.

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