Parents of Children Lost to Gun Violence Demand Change

Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention hosts survivors and advocates seeking solutions

NEW HYDE PARK, N.Y.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Northwell Health’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention on Tuesday brought together dozens of gun violence survivors, family members who have lost loved ones and advocates as part of an ongoing effort to build a coalition of support and public awareness aimed at curbing the nationwide surge in gun deaths and injuries that is killing more than 45,000 Americans annually.

Over the past two decades, Shenee Johnson, of Shirley, has lost her fiancé, a cousin and 17-year-old son Kedrick Morrow to gun violence while living in Springfield Gardens, Queens. “Our stories did not make national news,” she told fellow family members whose children were victims of gun violence. “But as a black woman in America, I’ve had to bury three people – all killed by illegal guns. I’ve dedicated my life to be their voices.”

Lonnie and Sandy Phillips have been responding to mass shootings since their 24-year-old daughter, Jessica, was murdered in July 2012 in the Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting. Jessica was one of 12 people killed that day; more than 70 were injured. As a way to honor her memory and offer support to families impacted by gun violence, the Phillipses founded the advocacy organization Survivors Empowered and have travelled to countless communities impacted by mass shootings over the past decade. Most recently, they were in Buffalo to offer counseling to those impacted by the Tops supermarket massacre; upon hearing of the Uvalde school shooting, they immediately travelled to Texas. This year, they plan to travel to 22 cities nationwide as part of their ongoing effort to build a national coalition of survivors that will continue to raise their voices for common-sense gun safety legislation. “I call on everyone who values the sanctity of human life to get involved now,” said Ms. Phillips.

While noting that Northwell hospitals have already treated more gun violence victims since January 1 than in any other prior year, Chethan Sathya, MD, a pediatric trauma surgeon who also serves as director of Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention, said it’s imperative that hospitals and health systems become more engaged in addressing some of the underlying causes of what is clearly a public health crisis. “The most likely reason that your kid will die in this country is at the hands of a firearm – and that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said.

Since last November, clinicians at three Northwell hospitals have been screening thousands of patients for risk of firearm injury. Similar to questions they are asked by doctors about whether they drink alcohol, use drugs or smoke, patients are asked whether they own a firearm, how it is stored, whether they hear gunshots in their neighborhoods and whether anybody has ever pulled a gun on them. “In many neighborhoods, literally every child hears gunshots every night,” said Dr. Sathya, noting that the goal is to keep families safe from homicides, suicides and accidental shootings – not infringe on their Second Amendment rights.

As lawmakers in Washington, D.C., continue to debate gun safety legislation prior to Congress’ July 4th recess, survivors and advocates say action cannot come soon enough, even though they fear the compromise bill under consideration does not go far enough to reduce the average of 124 gun-related deaths that occur every day in the U.S.

Despite the frustration, Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling urged advocates to persevere. “We cannot give up,” he told advocates. “And because they see the impact of gun violence every day, health care organizations have a special responsibility to step up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Northwell’s Center for Gun Violence has been engaging hospitals and health systems nationwide to work within their communities to implement violence intervention programs as well as pursue education and awareness campaigns that strengthen gun safety to avoid accidental shootings and suicides, which account for about half of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. Click here to see interviews with survivors and family members who have lost loved ones, and learn more about Northwell’s gun violence prevention and advocacy efforts.

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About Northwell Health

Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals, 850 outpatient facilities and more than 12,000 affiliated physicians. We care for over two million people annually in the New York metro area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 79,000 employees – 18,900 nurses and 4,900 employed doctors, including members of Northwell Health Physician Partners – are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. We’re training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit and follow us @NorthwellHealth on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


Michelle Pinto