By Sammi Sontag…
With a single shot his chest cavity was torn apart. Pat Dale was murdered July 16, 1983.
“Pat didn’t have to die in vain,” Betsy Dale Adams, Alabama native said. “But he did.”
Adams currently lives in Gulf Breeze with her husband. She is a registered nurse, but in recent years has become a writer, speaker, influencer and advocate for the voiceless.
The loss of her older brother forced Adams to remove her rose-colored glasses seeing the unjust world. Though the burden of her grief is heavy, it exponentially changed her life.
“I thought, well if I can help save one person on this planet through my story, then all of it is worth it,” she said. “I can’t be silent.”
In 2015 Adams wrote, “Immunity from Justice, Pat’s Story,” a passion of love and pain. Her life long dedication to fighting for gun control was set in motion.
“What moved me to write the book was I had been carrying the story of what happened to my brother around,” she said. “And I always said ‘I wish I had someone to tell this story to’ because it is so tragic and so bizarre.”
She added, “Then it was like I had a revelation. One month, one week and one day after the 30th anniversary of my brother Pat’s death, I just picked up a notepad and started writing.”
As she wrote, Adams began to see the bigger picture. There was a problem with gun control in America and her story, while painful was not singular.
“What’s going on in this country right now is that all these horrible, senseless tragedies about people that own guns or get their hands on guns, who have no business touching a gun happen,” she said.
She continued, “Because of that you have to get to people, if not through their brains, then it has to be through their hearts. And I know that’s a terrible way to think, but you have to touch them with your story.”
Adams is a member of the nonprofit organizations Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action. These organizations fight for national gun safety and control.
She attended a summit for gun control in Washington, D.C. in April 2018. A group of gun violence victims band together to share stories of loss and lobby congress.
“It was incredible,“ she said. “There were survivors from all over the country, and for the first time, besides my immediate family, I didn’t feel alone. I felt validated. There were 150 of us and we were all feeling the same pain and through that it was so empowering.”
The group spoke to a number of issues that gun laws should embody. One of which was the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, or House Bill 38. This bill would amend Title 18 of the United States Code to require all states to recognize concealed carry permits given by other states.
Other issues brought up at the summit were closing loopholes with gun sales (gun shows and online purchasing) and pushing for more stringent background checks when buying a gun.
“We were actually able to sway a few people,” Adams said. “There is power in numbers.”
The next step for Adams is Gun Sense University (GSU) in Atlanta, Georgia, throughout the week of August 6. Adams attended this seminar in years past and watched it grow.
“Just last year there were only 600 people attending the conference,” Adams said. “Now there are over 1,200 people attending. All are people who lost someone to gun violence.”
Moms Demand Action formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. The organization then created GSU to increase gun safety and facilitate conversation about gun violence in America.
Prior to the loss of her brother, Adams relationship with guns was neutral. Growing up, her father owned a gun; she never thought she would experience loss to gun violence.
“It was a nonissue for me back then,” she said. “I was 25 years old, my dad was a World War II veteran. We had a 22 rifle in our home for just protection. It (gun violence) became an issue after Columbine and then the NRA started changing their culture.”
She continued, “A long time ago the NRA had a culture of teaching gun safety. They were good, but then they turned into an extremist group and started promoting fear.”
Adams stresses that she and the gun safety groups are not advocating taking away ones second amendment rights.
“The country has just gotten so bad with gun violence,“ Adams said. “People perceive these gun safety groups as a threat, but we respect the second amendment. It’s here to stay. This is about responsible gun ownership and closing the loopholes and keeping guns and weapons out of the wrong hands.”
Looking toward the future, Adams is optimistic. She is proud of those who have been taking a stand. She commends the March For Our Lives Road Tour, the rallies and protests that have taken place and the work students have done to campaign change.
Though the death of her brother will linger, she will not let his story fall on deaf ears. And with time, she thinks change will ensue.
“It will always be difficult to talk about Pat,“ she said. “After it happened I had nightmares for two years. I still miss Pat like it was yesterday. I went to his grave not too long ago, I just told him ‘Pat, I’m working for ya. I’m trying.’”