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Tisa Whack

Commentary: I lost a son to gun violence. This is about more than politics.

Life as I knew it changed forever on the evening of November 30, 2015, when a detective & coroner showed up at my house and told me unimaginable news.

There was a shooting and my only child, Tyrell, was murdered at the age of 23, along with his 22-year-old friend, due to senseless act of gun violence.

It was the day that I joined a club that no one wanted to be a part of – I became a gun violence survivor.

Tyrell was smart, athletic, handsome, humorous, and had the most amazing smile. He was a husband, married to his high school sweetheart, and a father to a then-two-year-old son.

He was the type of person that made you believe you were the most important person in his life – and in so many different ways I was. I was his mother, his caregiver, his friend, and his constant.

Too many families across the country are just like mine – devastated, angry and confused by the gun violence that stole our loved one. On top of that trauma, we’re desperate for action.

Thankfully, the moment we are in right now seems different. Senator Graham has joined a group of 20 bipartisan Senators who reached agreement on a framework to take action on gun violence and mental health. The framework would take action to enhance background checks for purchasers under 21, provide federal funding to implement and incentivize state Red Flag laws, address the dating partner loophole, and other measures. And if passed, it would be the first major federal gun safety law in 26 years.

After my son died, my grandson had his third birthday. Our grief was still fresh – only four days removed from my world crashing down. Tyrell had planned a weekend out of town with his son and wife to celebrate the occasion. Knowing that Tyrell would have wanted us to do it, we honored his wishes – all while making funeral arrangements in the background.

I can’t begin to describe how painful it was to continue to celebrate with my grandson as he continued to ask “where’s Daddy” throughout the party. At three years old, he did not, yet, understand the concept of death.

Even now, seven years later we are still trying to explain the why to my grandson. We ponder how to answer questions like “Is the person that killed my daddy in jail forever?” and “Why did he kill my daddy?”

The pain that I have felt for the past seven years ago is as strong now as it was then – especially when we think about the future Tyrell could have had. It’s hard to think about him missing my grandson’s life. Things like football games, track meets, and even just his love of math are just some of the few things that were stolen. His future with his wife and child will always be a what if.

After Tyrell died, I chose to speak out about my story and join the gun violence prevention movement, because he wasn’t able to do it himself. I knew I had to use my voice to honor him and the other 110 people who are shot and killed every single day.

I turned my pain into purpose and joined the Everytown Survivor Network and co-founded

We Are Their Voices, a local non-profit that provides services to survivors and awareness and education to the effects of violence to families and communities. I never want someone else to feel the way that I feel knowing that I will never see my only child again in the flesh.



Gun violence can never be the norm. That's why I do this work every single day. My advocacy allows me to continue to bring awareness to a growing number of people killed or injured due to senseless gun violence. So many voices have been silenced at the hands of gun violence and as a community it’s important to share their voices and never let the world forget that they were real, loved, and mattered.

I will never let the world forget my son. I’m grateful to Senator Graham for initiating action, but this is just the first step. If you are tired of seeing this violence in our communities, homes, grocery stores, parks and everywhere else we go, please join me in thanking Senator Graham and urging him to make turning this bipartisan framework into law his main priority.

This isn’t about red or blue politics. This is about saving lives.



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