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‘It lasts a lifetime:’ Activists share personal stories during Gun Violence Survivors Week

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MILWAUKEE -- Friday, Feb. 1 marked the start of the inaugural "Gun Violence Survivors Week," organized by "Everytown for Gun Safety," billed as the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization. According to that group, the week was timed "to coincide with the point in the calendar year when the United States surpasses other high-income countries in gun deaths."

The group noted "with a gun death rate 10 times greater than other high-income nations, by early February, more Americans are killed with guns than are killed in our peer countries in an entire calendar year."

In Milwaukee on Saturday, Feb. 2, during a campaign called "Moments That Survive," gun violence survivors had an opportunity to share memories and stories of how their lives have changed -- for example, how an object, place, or action has taken on a new meaning in their life after gun violence.

The event was organized in conjunction with the "Milwaukee Moms Demand Action" chapter, and was open to the public.

Khary Penebaker

Khary Penebaker was among those who shared personal stories.

"On Sept. 8, 1979, my mom wrote a note," explained Penebaker. "She got into her car, drove on the freeway, pulled over, sat there on the side of the road with nothing but depression lying to her -- making her believe that my world would be better off without her. She shot and killed herself that day. She was only 27 years old."

Mental illness cut short a lifetime of memories that could have been.

"I don't know what my mom's voice sounds like," said Penebaker. "I don't know what it's like to have my own mom tell me she loves me and is proud of me."

His story of loss and pain was very similar to others.

"Every 25 minutes, there is a gun suicide like my mom's," said Penebaker. "We are going to have a panel and talk about our stories as survivors and, what we think might be good solutions to end the deadly scourge of gun violence that plagues too many communities across our country."

Calling on state and U.S. lawmakers to enact common-sense gun laws, these activists work for change, so no more community members are forced to say "rest in peace."

Carmen Pitre

"We need to make sure we have input on what a policy might be," said Penebaker. "The most comprehensive way of us reducing all segments of gun violence is through universal background checks of all gun sales."

"It's critical to understand the importance of ending gun violence and the tremendous impact gun violence has on survivors," said Carmen Pitre, president and CEO of Sojourner Family Peace Center. "Women, men kids -- it lasts a lifetime."

If you would like to be a part of the movement or share your story, CLICK HERE.

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