Shirley Chambers lost her son Ronnie to gun violence the last weekend in January. He wasn't the first child Shirley has lost to a gun: he was the fourth. She has no children now.
It began in 1995, when Ronnie's brother Jerome was shot at the age of 18. Five years later, his 15-year-old sister LaToya. Later that same year, another brother, Carlos, lost his life to a bullet. "I only have one child left," Chambers told the Chicago Tribune at the time, "and I'm afraid that [the killing] won't stop until he's gone too."
Unfortunately, she was right. Family friend Laverne Smith said Shirley is hurting today. "We need to get the guns off the street and build a good life for our babies," Smith told the Tribune. "We need to really get together and stop fighting."
This weekend, Ronnie Chambers became one of the 1,317 people who've lost their lives to gun violence since more than two dozen were shot and killed in the Newtown school shooting, sparking a national debate about gun violence.
President Obama and Vice President Biden have said that any policy, even one that saves only one life, is worth pursuing, if it can protect American children. For the gun manufacturers involved in this debate, protecting children has a different meaning. It's not about keeping guns off the streets and out of schools, but putting more guns in the hands of "good guys," and sometimes even in the hands of children.
The New York Times reported this weekend on the industry's youth-marketing initiatives, which are intended to create a new generation of gun owners. That includes magazines like Junior Shooters, which advertises guns to children with lines like "Make Dad Jealous."
In a recent issue, an article lauding the virtues of the Bushmaster AR-15 sat alongside an advertisement for the weapon which asked “Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”
These images play a role in the ongoing gun debate, just as the images of Shirley Chambers and her children do.
Chambers told the Chicago Sun Times that she's devastated by the loss of her last child. "We have to step up and love--help each other through this, because we can't do it alone," she said. "We have to help one another. I've been through this too many times."