Editor's note: Roxanne Jones is a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and a former vice president at ESPN. She is a national lecturer on sports, entertainment and women's topics and a recipient of the 2010 Woman of the Year award from Women in Sports and Events. She is the author of "Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete" (Random House) and is CEO of Push Media Strategies and is working on her second book.
(CNN)-- My father was murdered. Shot down on the street in Philadelphia in the 70s.
I never had a chance to know him. His name was Edgar Leonard, and he was in his 20s when he was killed. My grandmother, his mother, fell apart after he died. He was her only child.
But kids are curious, regardless of the pain their questions may cause grown-ups. I always wanted to know more about my father. My mother wasn't talking. So at 9 years old, I asked my grandmother to tell me about my dad. The first thing she did was show me photos of her son stretched out in his coffin with bullet holes in his head.
House Speaker John Boehner and those who support unrestricted gun rights should take a long look at photos like this -- or talk, just once, to mothers who've lost loved ones to gun violence -- before they utter one word about gun control laws. The experience doesn't have to change their position, but I guarantee it will help shape their perspectives and permit more intelligent conversations on the issue.
Staring at those photographs, I was horrified. I had nightmares for years about getting shot in the head myself, or what my father thought about as he was dying. My grandmother only saw the handsome, charismatic young man her son once was. Fortunately for me, I have since seen photos of him in happier times: as a chubby baby boy; smiling with his prom date. Who knew why my grandmother showed me. Maybe she wanted me to see the violence that took his life. Or what guns do when not used responsibly. I know she wanted the person who killed her son caught and punished. That didn't happen.
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Coming from this tragic place has given me an awesome respect and healthy fear of guns. I know how one shot can change lives forever. In my 40-plus years, hardly a day has gone by that I haven't thought about my father and missed the man I never knew.
Opinion: Gun control is on all of us
I have lived in a city for the past 25 years, where always I assume anyone can be armed at any time in any place. And I grew up in Connecticut, where is it common to hear gunshots echoing through the woods and see a gutted deer carcass hanging from a tree draining blood.
Despite my father's violent death, I vigorously support our right to bear arms. Honestly, I've seen collector guns that are beautiful pieces of craftsmanship. And I'm quite convinced that if I ever felt my or my son's life was in danger, I'd use a gun to protect us both from harm. I pray that I will never have to make that decision.
More at http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/18/opinion/jones-g...