On Christmas Eve almost 16 years ago, Ann Marie Crowell's 12-year-old son Brian was playing at a friend's house. The boys found a gun, and Brian was accidentally shot in the neck. Crowell joined HuffPost Live to discuss how families cope when they lose a child to a firearm accident.
She told host Marc Lamont Hill that Brian had been on the phone with his sister when his friend brought out the gun. "His friend had recently found that his mom had a gun, and he wanted to show it to Brian," Crowell said. "So while he was on the phone with his sister, the boy took the gun. And he thought he emptied it and put the bullets on the nightstand, and started to do 'click, click, click,' waiting for Brian to hang up. And as Brian hung up the phone, that third click of the gun, a bullet came out of that gun and hit Brian right in the neck."
"The last words he said to his friend was, 'I can't believe you shot me!' as he tried to run out of the house, but he only made it down the stairs to the living room, where he collapsed on the floor."
Brian was rushed to the hospital, but his injuries were too severe. "They did try to do surgery for about two hours, and the doctor came out and said that the bullet had entered through his neck and gone down his chest and basically exploded everything in there. And they allowed us to be with him for his last breath. And he passed away that evening."
Following her son's death, Crowell began to actively work against gun violence. She reached out to the Boston-based organization Stop Handgun Violence, and five months after the incident, spoke at a press conference advocating for new gun control laws.
Despite her grief, Crowell never lashed out at Brian's friend or his mom. The families still live around the corner from each other, though they do not keep in contact.
"When it first happened, the next day actually, Christmas Day when we were at the funeral home trying to make funeral arrangements, I did get a call from the mom, who took full responsibility being [that it was] her gun and it was left accessible, and if there was anything she could do for us. She was not going to contact us to make anything harder for us," Crowell explained.
"I don't know what to say to the woman. She has her own things that she has to work through, knowing her son killed someone with a gun that belonged to her. So they're dealing with their new life as we're dealing with ours."