Gun Stories

February 27, 2020

Members share their experiences with gun violence and the ways they are fighting back and healing.

Dorinda MacDougald considers herself lucky. Her son Kevin was 25 when he was shot in the hip in an East Buffalo drive-by. Discharged to his family’s care, the six-foot-tall-and-250-pound young man needed around-theclock care by MacDougald and her daughters. Kevin eventually walked again, thanks in no small part to his caregiver mother’s experience and determination. His friend, wounded in the same shooting, was shot in the neck and paralyzed. MacDougald says it was hard watching Kevin struggle with the trauma and aftermath. “You know they just don’t want to go to therapy. He wanted to tough it out, even though he was reliving it day after day,” she says. The experience turned her into an activist. “We have meetings where I talk to people. I go speak with young people. I tell them they have to stop this stupid ‘no snitching’ where the community doesn’t tell the police after a crime,” she says. “I understand because the community doesn’t trust the police,” she continues. “Our 1199 Political Action Fund is a big part of making change here. I have started meeting with politicians and helped re-educate police officers about how to treat people. I’ve helped set up meet-and-greets where officers can get a chance to meet with the community and listen.”

Every day, local and national news outlets churn out stories about guns and gun violence across America. From big cities like Chicago and New York, to small towns in the Midwest and Southeast, there is no corner of the nation untouched by gun violence and the debate around gun rights. According to the Giffords Law Center, 100 Americans are killed with guns every day and over 1.2 million people have been shot in the last decade.

United States gun culture and related legislation are a patchwork quilt of stringencies, ranging from deep background checks to open carry laws. High-profile mass shootings and the vocal movement to address police shootings in our Black and Brown communities have prompted national debates about regulation, systemic racism, and street violence. 1199 has consistently been at the forefront of the movements calling for safer communities, an end to police violence, and common-sense gun laws that respect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners.

In the U.S., gun ownership is rooted in the Second Amendment, but even the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld some limitations, including certain bans on concealed weapons and the sale of firearms to specific groups of people. Still, gun rights and gun ownership are a central facet of America’s national identity. Though most Americans support stricter gun laws, legislation banning certain types of weapons has been consistently scuttled, and the debate rages on in state houses and capitals across the country.

Generally speaking, gun stories follow the news cycle. After a tragedy, we’re inundated with heartbreaking victim profiles, calls for systemic change, and reports of loss and trauma.

But for many, including many 1199 members, these experiences are part of their daily landscape. Too many of us live in weary, neglected communities. Muted by the debate around rights and policy are the stories of everyday working people who endure shocking loss while caring for loved ones and advocating for change. 1199 Magazine asked some of our members to share with us how guns and gun violence have affected their lives. These are some of their stories.