Mother Of Suicide Loss Chooses Pro-gun Stance
Aug 1999

Mother Of Suicide Loss Chooses Pro-gun Stance

Brenda Bernard Flowers

My only child, Kimberly, committed suicide with a “handgun.” My life has taken many twists and turns like the rest of you, but few parents experience the impact and devastation of tragically losing a child. I grieve not only the loss of Kimberly, but I grieve the loss of my motherhood. After being a mom, half my life, I found myself weightlessly and aimlessly floating in a void…a void of “purpose.”

Neither Kimberly, nor I, knew the first thing about “guns.” My former husband was a State Trooper and I wonder how different our lives might be, this day, had he taught Kimberly about firearm safety. I have spoken with parents and children who have educated themselves about gun safety. It seems that kids who have been taken hunting or to a range for target practice on paper, pumpkins or apples, seem to have developed a better sense of responsibility. They have a more “realistic” knowledge of a firearm’s purpose and capabilities.

I did not get involved in the anti/pro-gun crusade after losing Kimberly. I was much too drained and needed every ounce of energy available just to get up in the morning and face another day (sometimes I still do). However, one day, I did wake up. That was when I, a divorcee, moved from my cozy suburban home into the historic district of a popular tourist area. I had no idea that the daytime charm of my new domain would turn into a frightening world at dusk. I was a single woman, had been followed by men on foot, followed by men in vehicles, approached by men while in my car at a light, houses were getting broken into, car alarms were a common sound, people were getting held up on the street by hoodlums using pepper spray, a man was baseball batted to death at a nearby park, gangs passed through the area, and a few other murders took place within just blocks of me. I was frightened and devastated by it all.

After dark, parking was scarce which required me to walk blocks from my car to the front door of my home. I had to give up evening church activities, couldn’t attend evening college and couldn’t even work late in order to make extra money. I became a household prisoner and had to have steel bars welded to my windows protecting me from daytime and nighttime break-ins. What kind of world was I living in? I thought these things only happened on television or to other people, but to me? I recall, when living in my safe suburban neighborhood, how I would watch the news with detachment. I was so ignorant… so ignorant as to what people were capable of doing to each other in that “other world.” What they did was frighteningly sad and my ignorance of it all was even worse.

I realize that I had to take responsibility for protecting myself. I had no husband, no family instate and couldn’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. I called the Maryland State Police Headquarters to inquire about a carry permit. I was told I could carry only if I were transporting jewelry or making business deposit on a regular basis. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and realized that I had no way of protecting myself except by outrunning the bad guys. What was any single woman to do? How do I literally STOP bad men BEFORE they make physical contact with me? Animals have talons, teeth and poisons to protect themselves with. As humans, you and I don’t have these defensive features.

However, we do have the intelligence that enables us to create protective devices which we defensively apply with our hands. With obvious disbelief and with a need to clarify what I had heard from the Trooper, I asked “do you mean I can get a carry permit, if I make a $50 deposit for a ma’n’pa business, but I can’t carry a gun to preserve my own life?” The Trooper said that that was correct and that “the law’s the law and the law can’t be changed.” Numbly, I hung up the phone and sat in total stupor. Looking back, I realize this was another turning point in my life. I may not be a mom anymore, but I do believe that my life (as well as yours) has purpose and value, and that there is a reason why I am still on this earth with every right to protect it.

Shortly, thereafter, I met an attorney with whom I shared some facts of my life. We talked about the anti-pro-gun issues and my curiosity to learn more became more aroused. I had a thirst to find out what on earth this “gun” controversy was all about. I believed it was very important for me to pursue this issue utilizing and balancing both emotion and intellect. It would have been so easy for me to rush into a mindset of hating the item that my daughter used to sweep away her life.

I remember my first gun range trip. I felt nervous, self-conscious and a bit intimidated. Heck, I felt so intimidated that I just wanted to become invisible, but I knew I had to follow through if I wanted to be fair and honest about my personal mission for truth. BANG! BANG! Panic swept over me as I physically ran away from the range. Having no idea where I was running to or even why, all I could think about was my baby. All I could think about was that sound… BANG! That sound, my God… that sound was the very last sound my baby heard when she shot herself! She didn’t hear sweet and peaceful music or soothing words of someone telling her they loved her. She heard a horrid BANG! Sweat was beading up all over me and I was panting. I realized that I was in public and caught myself before I drew too much attention. I walked around knowing that I was there, but felt as if I really wasn’t. I wanted to run, but then again, I’ve always tried to face my challenges. I knew I had to stay and try to come to grips with everything that had happened to me. Somehow, I had to stay. I kept thinking to myself “be brave Bren, you can do it, hang in there, you can do it…”

Since then, I have enjoyed shooting tremendously and have recently ventured into hunting. Many women are not physically active; however, many of us are learning more and more about our remarkable eye-hand coordination skills and enjoying the ranges and hunt. Instructors tell me that women learn very quickly and are quite proficient at shooting. We can opt to go to a range and practice target shooting alone or go with a group, to compete or never compete. Shooting for sport also keeps us familiar with the use of a gun in case we need to use it for self-defense. Briefly, I wondered what Kimberly would say to me about taking up shooting, and the first thought that came to mind was hearing her encouraging young teen-age voice yelling “YEAH, GOOOOO MOM!”

Neither you nor I can ever be replaced. We are the most important people in the world to at least one person, not to mention to ourselves. We owe it to ourselves and to our loved ones, to make sure we protect ourselves from thugs and to make sure we make it home at night. I ache at the thought of officers knocking on the front door of someone’s home with their hats in their hands, heavy hearts with news that someone killed their loved one. I remember that dreadful night when the officers came to tell me Kimberly committed suicide. I’ll never forget the sound that erupted from my body. It was then that I knew what the Bible meant when referring to “wailing.” What a horribly agonizing sound. I want to protect other people from feeling the same pain I felt that night and from feeling the pain that I feel this very moment. Granted, I can’t stop suicides any more than I can stop the publication of “Final Exit” by Derek Humphry, the book that some kids buy to learn about different ways of committing suicide. I haven’t heard of anyone trying to stop its publication… First Amendment rights and all. It’s ironic how our Second Amendment protects our First Amendment, isn’t it? Even for such a book as that?

I think about the precious lives that are swept away by suicide. I recognize many suicides are completed by so many ways, i.e., hangings by various means, car/motorcycle crashes, carbon monoxide suffocation, illegal drug overdoses, prescribed medical overdoses, razors, guns, drowning, jump off high areas, etc. I also think about various devices that people use to commit this heinous act and how “guns” and “medicine” are two of the means, that when used responsibly, save more lives than they take… such precious lives… elderly, children, women and men.

I have finally found an inner peace and conviction in encouraging women, the elderly and the physically challenged to become more sensitive to their self-worth, and to take necessary measures of protecting themselves from the thugs looking for easy victims. I recognize the need of protecting our Bill of Rights from being twisted and tampered with. I support the voices of wisdom that whisper from the graves of our long ago pioneers… ordinary people who journeyed to this virgin land… a land being the cornerstone upon which they lay fulfillment of their dreams for personal freedoms into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We are, indeed, a very lucky people.

I pray that when I become elderly and more dependent upon my firearm for personal protection, that my meager efforts of protecting our human rights, which are protected by our Bill of Rights, will have made a difference.