Mary Wilson-Snipes lost her son, Felix, to gun violence Aug. 31, 2018. He was only 29 years old.
Ever since then, she has fought to keep his memory alive and to end gun violence.
Wilson-Snipes founded a local chapter of Moms Demand Action which held its first meeting last month. Most recently, she took part in the Recess Rally Aug. 17 at the Kansas capitol the first such event she has ever attended.
About 200 people showed up, she said, creating a sea of red in front of the capitol building.
People from all walks of life showed up to take part, from clergy to family members of victims of gun violence.
Gov. Laura Kelly attended the rally and spoke with attendees.
“The rally was a very emotional but also ‘we want action’ type of environment,” Wilson-Snipes said.
The group laid 100 pairs of shoes on the steps of the capitol to represent those who die every day of gun violence.
Wilson-Snipes hung a pair of her son’s shoes around her neck and spoke as a survivor.
It’s still hard to wrap her mind around.
“I never thought I would be a survivor of gun violence,” she said. “I thought maybe, growing up, I would be a survivor of cancer, because that’s what’s in my family — cancer. Never thought it would be of gun violence.”
Wilson-Snipes would like to create a world where no one has to call themselves that — where children and adults of all ages don’t have to fear mass shootings on a daily basis.
Children, she said, should feel safe.
“Do our kids feel safe when they’re having active shooting drills?” she said. “We have to think about that, as a society.”
She’s only sorry that she came into this form of activism after losing her son.
“Ever since it happened to us, I told my husband that I will continue to be Felix’s voice and each time my drive gets harder and harder,” Wilson-Snipes said.
Wilson-Snipes hopes the rally made an impact. However, she said, the same day as the rally, she heard news that a young woman in the Topeka had been shot and killed.
It’s a never-ending battle.
However, Wilson-Snipes said she refuses to surrender.
“Enough is enough, you know?” she said. “Not one more.”
Change starts small, Wilson-Snipes said, with people writing to their senators about background checks and red flag laws. This was the goal of the rally — to encourage lawmakers to pass laws requiring background checks for gun ownership and to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them.
No one, she said, expects to be the victim of a shooting and it can happen to anyone at any time.
“My thing is, if it can happen to us, it can happen to you,” Wilson-Snipes said. “And we never thought that this would happen to us.”