AT CLOSE RANGE: A MEMOIR OF
TRAGEDY AND ADVOCACY
By Leesa Ross
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Pub Date: April 15, 2020
Categories: Nonfiction / Memoir / Personal Transformation / Advocacy
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Leesa Ross did not expect to write a book. Neither did she expect the tragedy that her family endured, a horrific and sudden death that led her to write At Close Range. Her debut memoir is the story of what happened after her son Jon died in a freak gun accident at a party. Ross unsparingly shares the complexities of grief as it ripples through the generations of her family, then chronicles how the loss of Jon has sparked a new life for her as a prominent advocate for gun safety. Before the accident, Ross never had a motivation to consider the role that guns played in her life. Now, she revisits ways in which guns became a part of everyday life for her three sons and their friends.
Ross’s attitude towards guns is thorny. She has collectors and hunters in her family. To balance her advocacy, she joined both Moms Demand Action and the NRA. Through At Close Range, the national conversation about gun control plays out in one family’s catalyzing moment and its aftermath. However, At Close Range ultimately shows one mother’s effort to create meaning from tragedy and find a universally reasonable position and focal point: gun safety and responsible ownership.
People deal with grief in many different ways. I know this from my work as a hospital chaplain when I facilitated grief support groups, and the one truth about grief is there is no right or wrong way to handle it.
I admire Leesa Ross for how she channeled her grief into action. When I first heard about this book I thought about the protagonist in one of my books (One Small Victory) who is modeled after a real person who also lost a son. That woman used the emotional energy from her grief to push her way onto a drug task force to help bring down a major drug supplier in her small town.
While the circumstances of the losses these two women experienced are different, and the activism is different, there’s something so powerful that resonates with me, as a mother and as someone who flails against windmills. I admire Leesa Ross for how she channeled her grief into action, and I also admire her for writing a book that is so important.
I’ve written about gun violence, and the one message that experts who own guns, sell guns, and promote gun ownership, is the importance of gun safety.
It is so nice to see how Leesa Ross is promoting that through her book and Lock Arms For Life . I admire her strength and tenacity in pushing through to get the real reason for her son’s death officially recorded, as well as starting the gun safety programs. I also enjoyed getting to know her beyond that as a woman and a mother. I had to smile when I read about her superstitions. “I pay attention to the cracks in the sidewalks. I touched the roof of my car when driving over a railroad track, and I avoid snatching up those tails-up pennies in the street.”
Those are superstitious actions that I remember from my childhood. My mother always told me, “See a penny pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck.” But I didn’t know that I shouldn’t pick up the penny if it was on the ground tails up. I will be paying more attention from now on. 🙂
Leesa Ross is a debut author who’s transformed a tragedy into a mission for safety. After losing a son to a shooting accident, she formed Lock Arms for Life, an educational organization teaching gun safety. A Texas mother of three, she leads Lock Arms, sits on the board of Texas Gun Sense, and belongs to the NRA.
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Five winners each get a hardcover copy of At Close Range.
US Only. Ends midnight, CST, 2/26/21
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