This Mother’s Day, Let's Protect Our Kids

by Sandy Aponte
Originally Published: 
mother's day
Sandra Aponte

Mother’s Day will never be the same.

It used to be a day of such joy. Each year, I’d receive a beautiful card and flowers from the boys.

But now, two years after my son’s death, it’s only a reminder of my loss. The last gift I ever received from my son was a watercolor painting of a flower. It’s now by my bed next to his photo.

While Mother’s Day is mostly celebrated across the country with brunch and flowers, it turns out that an early iteration of Mother’s Day actually honored moms who had lost their children in war, and encouraged moms and others to work for peace and safety. Today, more mothers lose their children to gun violence than to organized warfare. Seven kids are killed by guns every day in the United States.

My Eddie had such a big heart. He was a loving and caring kid. At the age of 13, Eddie died of a gunshot wound to his chest. He was unintentionally shot by a classmate after another boy brought out his stepdad’s loaded and unlocked shotgun.

When I was asked to take part in a documentary, Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA, I knew it was something I had to do, even if it would mean reliving the most agonizing moments of my life. If sharing my baby’s life and tragic death could help save a life, I had to do it.

As I watched the film with my family—saw my son’s blood on the floor, my son’s sock, my son’s shirt with the basketball on it—I realized how much suffering and violence occurs in this country because of greed. The same year my son was killed, a single gun manufacturer—the Mossberg Corporation and its companies—earned $201 million. That’s more than $80,000 for every child who was shot and killed in 2014.

Almost twice a week, a child is unintentionally shot and killed, often by another child. Accidental shootings are so common that they’ve found their way into primetime, anchoring a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

It seems like it would be common sense to safely store and secure firearms out of the reach of curious children, but it is perfectly legal in my home state of Washington, and in much of the country, to leave a deadly weapon in reach of a child. 1.7 million American children live in homes with guns loaded and unlocked.

Earlier this year in Tennessee, a 3-year-old boy died after being accidentally shot as lawmakers put off voting on a bill that would require the safe storage of firearms. The bill, which was strongly opposed by the NRA, was ultimately defeated.

The NRA also opposed a mandatory storage law in Washington State the year before my son was shot and killed with a gun that was not safely stored. The law never passed.

This Mother’s Day, as we honor moms and hold close those who desire to be moms, I ask that you also stand up for our kids.

Like you, I did all the normal things a mom does to make sure her 13-year-old was safe. I didn’t let him go to unsupervised parties. I checked in with him and up on him. I didn’t own a gun in my house, but we talked about guns and what to do if you see one. But what I didn’t do, what I wish I did—and what you can do—is ask the parents of my son’s friends if they had guns in their homes.

One simple question—is there an unlocked gun in your house?—could save your child’s life.

But don’t stop with that question. Ask your senators, your members of Congress, your state representatives, to watch Making a Killing, to stand up to the NRA, and to take action to protect our kids. Ask them why they kowtow to the NRA while our children die because guns aren’t safely stored. Ask them why they don’t support the investment into smart gun technology that renders a gun useless to anyone except its owner.

Because of their inaction and our state’s inability to agree on locking and securing guns, I was left with the unbearable task of planning the funeral of my 13-year-old son.

Eddie was a wonderful son, very loving and caring. He enjoyed being with his big brother Jose, his dog Buddy, and playing video games.

Mother’s Day isn’t the same without him.

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