Mother Shares Heartbreaking Loss of Son to Gun Violence on July 4th

For most, the Fourth of July is a time for celebration, but for Rhonda Phillips, it’s a painful reminder of her son’s absence.

Rhonda lost her son, Leon Bennett, to gun violence in 2018, just days before the holiday. Reflecting on her loss, she shared, “It stings every single day. It’s the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing before I go to bed. Losing a child is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.”

Leon, 23, was killed during a large fight on 7th Avenue North in Jacksonville Beach. Since then, Rhonda has avoided large gatherings, fearing for safety. “I don’t like to go out to gatherings anymore, and my family feels the same. With gun violence so common, you never know what might happen,” she said.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 80 mass shootings across the U.S. between July 1-7 over the past three years. Despite a decrease in murders and homicides in Jacksonville this year, the risk of gun violence remains high around the holiday.

Tom Hackney, News4JAX Crime and Safety Analyst, explained, “Large crowds, hot weather, and alcohol can be a dangerous mix, especially when people are off work.”

The U.S. Surgeon General has declared gun violence a public health crisis. Dr. Vivek Murthy’s advisory notes that nearly 60% of U.S. adults worry frequently about loved ones becoming victims of gun violence.

Hackney advised being extra cautious if you’re concerned about gun violence. “If something feels off, trust your instincts and find a way out. If you see someone with a gun, call the police,” he said. Early intervention can save lives.

Leon’s life was tragically cut short at 23. Rhonda hopes no other parent has to endure her pain. “Go out to have a good time, not to hurt someone or shoot someone,” she urged.

Leave a Comment