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A gunman killed my son and daughter. Senate now has a chance to curtail the violence | Column
“In a split second, all of their dreams, their goals and hopes for the future were gone,” writes guest columnist Crystal Turner.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington.
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. [ PATRICK SEMANSKY | AP ]
Published Yesterday|Updated Yesterday

Twenty-five minutes. That’s how long it took for my entire world to change.

It was April 1, 2015. Our office had been closed that day so three of my children and I, along with a staff employee, could attend an emergency medical technicians training. When we took our lunch break around 11:30 a.m., we decided to check on one of the daycare centers my family owned across the street. Everything was completely normal. Then, at 11:55 a.m., just 25 minutes later, I got a call from an employee I will never forget. She was screaming into the phone.

Crystal Turner
Crystal Turner [ Crystal Turner ]

My daughter, Jenea Harvison, 29, and my son, Donell McDonald Jr., 23, had been shot and killed by Jenea’s estranged husband in the parking lot.

Jenea had two kids, Roy Jr. and Royce, who were five and 23 months at the time, and she owned five daycare centers after working in the business for eight years. Donell had just finished his first year at The Ohio State University. They were extremely close and supportive of each other’s dreams.

Jenea struggled from postpartum depression following the birth of her two children. Her husband, who was successful in the community, was unable to acknowledge her newfound emotional reality, which became part of his abuse towards her. We tried to help my daughter, and she and her husband tried counseling, but the situation got worse, and eventually resulted in the murder of my daughter and my son.

In a split second, all of their dreams, their goals and hopes for the future were gone.

Unfortunately, I know that my story is one of far too many in a country where gun violence continues to devastate families. Intimate partner violence with a firearm is an American problem. Approximately 3.7 million women in the U.S. alive today have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner. For Black women like my daughter, Jenea, the risks are even higher: They are three times as likely as white women to be shot and killed by an intimate partner. And, horrifyingly, homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women compared to all other maternal mortality causes, and nearly 70 percent of these homicides involve a firearm.

Immediately following their deaths, I decided that no other family in this country should be forced to experience the pain and grief that my family and I were experiencing. After speaking at a city council meeting in Columbus, Ohio in 2017, I was introduced to the gun safety movement. I started advocating for common-sense gun policies, using my experience to go beyond just a story that I tell and become an activist driving change in my community and beyond.

Over the years, I’ve met with countless local officials, federal officials, and even President Joe Biden to share my story. I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow gun violence survivors from all over the country, taking to the streets and demanding for a safer future for our kids.

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Now, a bipartisan group of senators have come together to release a bill including major gun safety, mental health and school safety provisions. This bill would be the first time Congress has enacted a major gun safety law in almost 30 years. This bill will save lives. From creating an enhanced background check process for gun buyers under 21, to addressing the dating partner loophole, this framework is what so many gun violence survivors and gun safety advocates have been fighting for for decades.

This moment is personal for me. I have fought hard, for years, for this moment. And although I know no one thing will end all gun violence, I’m proud of the bipartisan steps that are being taken. Too many of us are living with the pain of gun violence, and it’s time for it to stop.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio announced Thursday he would oppose the bill. I hope he’ll think about how devastating gun violence is in our Florida communities and how many lives can be saved by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. This is an opportunity for Sen. Rubio to show his commitment to stopping this public health crisis and to take federal action after the mass shootings in Parkland just four years ago, and Uvalde just four weeks ago.

If you want to prevent gun violence in our state, then call Sen. Rubio’s office (202-224-3041) and urge him to vote for this bill.

Crystal Turner is a Moms Demand Action volunteer in Florida and a senior fellow with the Everytown Survivor Network.

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