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My Daughter’s Death Was Preventable

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Editor’s Note: This Gun Violence Prevention Month, we’re sharing the stories of people personally impacted by gun violence. You can read more here.

My daughter Brooklynn was well on her way to becoming a true difference maker. She had limitless potential and always did her best to accomplish greatness.

At just thirteen, she was president of her elementary school, an honor roll student, violinist, runner, and award-winning gymnast. She loved animals and always rescued stray dogs, giving them the care she brought to everything in her life. She made everyone around a better person.

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On June 4, 2013, Brooklynn went over to her best friend’s house after a half-day at school. When my husband Jake arrived to pick Brooklynn up, she was struggling for air, choking on her body fluid. A hollow-point bullet had entered her back and ripped through her tiny body before exiting her chest.

When I reached her, her beautiful eyes were still open, but now they held only fear and pain. I whispered, “Mommy is here now.” I scanned every inch of her little body and traced the quarter-size bullet wound on her chest with my fingers.

I covered the incision just under her heart with my hand, wishing somehow I could magically get it to beat, yearning to feel the healthy, vibrant daughter I had embraced just a few hours before.

An unfamiliar woman’s voice in the background asked me not to touch my daughter, referring to her as “the evidence.” She has a name, an identity, I thought. Her name is Brooklynn. She is my child. I gave her life. And I was the first person to arrive at the hospital to be informed that Brooklynn had not survived.

My daughter died because of an unsecured gun in her best friend’s home.

She was shot in the back with a gun that was kept in a kitchen cabinet. No charges were filed, and her death was ruled an accident. There was no accountability for the owner who stored their gun where a child could easily access it.

I had never thought to ask if there was an unsecured gun in her best friend’s home. Jake and I are both gun owners, and Jake is also a certified gun safety range officer. We keep our guns secured, and we were shocked to find out that more than four million children live in homes with unlocked and loaded guns.

BROOKLYNN from Charlie Mysak on Vimeo.

If the firearm that killed Brooklynn had been secured, we would still have our daughter today.

We have channeled our grief, anger, sadness, and so many other emotions into teaching others about the dangers of unsecured firearms in the home. Jake and I worked with Nevada Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo to pass AB153, Brooklynn’s Law, which imposes stricter punishments for gun owners who negligently store their firearms.

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We have talked to people at 5k races, set up tables at health events and at local gun ranges, and hosted events. We encourage parents to ask the question we never asked: Do you have any unsecured firearms in your home? We talk to anyone who will listen, because this can happen to anyone.

It’s important to remember the SAFE acronym:

S – Secure all firearms in the home
A – Ask if there are unsecured firearms in homes your child visits
F – Frequently talk to your children about the dangers of firearms
E – Educate and empower others on how to be SAFE

I will never fully recover from Brooklynn’s death. Grief like this does not dissipate, but we have a choice about how we grieve. Brooklynn was too special for us to live every day with bitterness or hate. Jake and I both feel we owe it to her to figure out how to survive and truly live each day.

It is up to us to educate others about the dangers of unsecured firearms in the home, especially when children are present, and to pass legislation that holds irresponsible gun owners accountable.

Brooklynn’s death was preventable. We will share our tragedy so that no other family has to feel our grief.

If you want to get involved in the fight to save lives from gun violence, join the Giffords Action Network.