Much of the news in the past few days has focused on work Vice President Biden has been doing to change government policy to reduce gun violence. I met him a couple of years ago and decided I needed to write him a letter telling him about my family's experience with gun violence. Here's what I wrote:
January 9, 2013
The Vice President
Old Executive Office Building
Washington, DC 20501
Dear Mr. Vice President:
It breaks my heart to know that our country has such horrific gun violence. The United States of American should not lead the civilized world in gun deaths. What does that say about us as a nation, as a people?
Let me tell you a story about gun violence that will put faces on the issue for you. A couple of years ago I met you and Dr. Biden at a Vice President’s Residence staff party. I was a guest of my brother, Michael Xander, your head gardener. Mike and I had a little brother, Mark Xander, who lived on the Maryland Eastern Shore, in Queen Anne County. In April 2011, Mark was murdered, shot in the back at point-blank range by his next-door neighbor. Mark was unarmed, trimming the shrubs in his front yard. The neighbor was angry because Mark’s dog wandered into his yard. Our brother died because an angry man—a man who should not have owned a gun—acted impulsively and with deep rage. My brother had a wife and two sons. He had a mother, two sisters, two brothers, and a thousand friends. He was a hard worker who held two jobs (working at K-Mart and detailing cars and boats) to support his family.
The man who killed our brother was a retired Baltimore cop but he had many run-ins with the local law and his license to carry a gun had been revoked. But he found a judge in Baltimore to reinstate his license.
Even before my brother was murdered I felt that there were too many guns in this country, weapons designed not for hunting but for war, and that many guns were in the hands of dangerous people. Then my brother was murdered and I personally felt the horror of losing someone I love to gun violence. I understand what people in Columbine, Aurora, Newtown, and nearly every place in this country feel when someone they love is murdered. Senseless isn’t a good enough word. I can’t find a word to describe it, but I can tell you that our family will never be the same.
Our country should not be controlled by the bullies who lead the National Rifle Association. I want to thank you for your efforts to reduce this plague on our nation. And I pray that you will be successful.