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America's gun culture claims three more victims

Last month a murder suicide by gunfire occurred in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, a suburb of the city of Springfield in the Western part of the state. It is doubtful that people outside of Massachusetts ever heard of it. Between the start of the year and February 15, national data from the Gun Violence Archive shows 4994 people died from gun violence – that’s homicides, accidents and suicides. (The Wilbraham case covered two of the three categories). That averaged to 108 deaths each day between January 1 and February 15. (Another 3,351 people had been injured by gunshot wounds in that period.) 

The reason I know about this event, living in NY, is because I knew one of the victims. She was 56-year-old Sima Setian Pariseau, my daughter Ivy’s best friend from high school. Also victimized was Sima’s 27-year-old son, Dylan. Ivy learned about this horrendous tragedy via a phone call from the surviving member of the family, Sima’s daughter Sophie, who happens to be Ivy’s God-daughter. They were both killed because Sima’s domestic partner obviously SNAPPED and after shooting Sima and Dylan, turned the gun on himself. 

Because the country has approximately 108 gun deaths a day, most people never bother to learn of the terrible loss suffered by family and friends of the murder-victim. So, I’m going to tell you a little about my daughter’s dear friend Sima and her son Dylan (the audio only focused on Sima because of time constraints.) 

After graduating with Ivy from the local high school, Sima attended Junior College where she received an Associate’s Degree. In addition to raising two children to adulthood, she worked at a local Medical Center as a Medical Coding Specialist. She and her family were pillars of the small but vibrant Armenian Community, and she was the Vice Chair of St. Gregory Armenian Church in Indian Orchard, a neighborhood of Springfield. Her parents, Harry and Elizabeth Setian, were among the founding members of the church. Sima married Mark Pariseau in a Church ceremony. Ivy was one of her bridesmaids. When Sima had Sophie, she asked Ivy to be her God-mother. Sima and Mark were divorced but remained friends. 

[For a heartfelt article from the local Armenian community see https://armenianweekly.com/2024/06/25/sima-setian-pariseau-and-son-dylan-pariseau-remembered-following-tragic-deaths/ The article has wonderful pictures of Sima, Dylan and Sima’s parents. Here is a small sample from the article: 

“Sima was a quiet leader, a rock, a beacon — a steadying force we all need in our lives,” Tanya Garibian, chairperson of the St. Gregory Church Board, said in the Weekly. “Her warm smile had the remarkable ability to reach out and hug and comfort you from afar. This quiet strength and compassion were the hallmarks of her character. Dylan, her mini-me, carried that same light, humility and love within him.”] 

Eighteen months ago, Sima volunteered for the CASA program. (CASA stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocate). Cassandra Hildeth the Assistant CASA Program Director was interviewed about the program and Sima. She “…. told Western Mass News that CASA organizes community volunteers to advocate for kids in foster care to make sure they are being seen and heard and that their needs are being met. She told us that Sima … was officially sworn-in as a volunteer advocate last June and Hildreth added that, from the beginning, Sima embodied what CASA is all about. 

She didn’t come with the background of any social service or court system, but she came with a solid interest in family and family connection. She was an eager learner and she was - although a quiet, peaceful person herself - not afraid to have a voice for somebody who needed it,” Hildreth explained.

Hildreth said Sima excelled at bringing humanity into the court system.

“She saw people for who they are. She’s open and hearing and seeing people circumstances and, in this most recent case she had, she played a really vital role and making sure that a teenage boy and his mother were able to reunify after years of being a part,” Hildreth noted.

[For the entire article see https://www.westernmassnews.com/2024/06/25/woman-killed-wilbraham-remembered-altruistic-caring-person/]

A number of interviews were posted to YouTube by a group of Dylan’s friends. They had grown up together – played Little League together -- gone to high school together -- stayed in the area and remained very close friends. Dylan earned a degree in biology and chemistry from Keene State College in 2019. He worked as a research associate at Moderna Therapeutics and then at Verve Therapeutics. His friends and family remember him as an avid fan of all the Boston professional sports teams. A number of his friends arranged for a special greeting honoring both him and his mother as life-long Red Sox fans to be displayed on the scoreboard at Fenway Park, Friday night, June 28. 

There is a picture on the St. Gregory’s website of Sima and her mother at the annual Father’s Day dinner at the Church. Sima is smiling, wearing an apron. The article on the Church’s website says her son Dylan was jokingly described as the “AARP representative” that day as he helped senior citizen participants up and down stairs and in and out of cars. In other words, Sima and Dylan were salt-of-the-earth individuals. To say they will be sorely missed is a ridiculous understatement. 

As if by divine intervention, less than a week after this horrendous event, the Surgeon General of the United States issued an advisory stating that firearm violence is a PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY. Here are some summary numbers ---“Since 2020, firearm-related injury has been the leading cause of death for U.S. children and adolescents (ages 1-19), surpassing motor vehicle crashes, cancer, and drug overdose and poisoning ….In 2022, 48,204 total people died from firearm-related inuuries, including suicides, homicides, and unintentional deaths. This is over 8000 more lives lost than in 2019 and over 16,000 more lives lost than in 2010.” 

[The full report is entitled, “Firearm Violence. A Public Health Crisis in America, The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory, 2024.” It ends with some reasonable recommendations.]

OK – let’s cue the NRA flacks and politician enablers: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people!” Also, as if on cue, Governor DeSantis of Florida declared that Florida, “will not comply.” He accused the surgeon general of “attempting to violate the Second Amendment through the ‘public health’ bureaucracy.” [See the Tampa Bay Times June 26, 2024.]

Of course, the argument that the problem is criminals or mental health ignores the obvious fact. If there were no gun in the Pariseau house, Sima and Dylan would be alive. The man who snapped might have started a fight. He might have picked up a knife. The two potential victims could have defended themselves. No Mr. NRA --- the gun was the reason for these senseless and awful deaths. 

And guess what? Even red flag laws and other band aids to the gun problem would not have protected Sima and Dylan. It appears that though the murderer had been suffering from depression, no one seemed to think he was a danger to himself or others – until he snapped and the presence of a gun meant it was too late. 

We all mourn the loss of Sima and Dylan. The wound to their family and friends is unbearable and it will never heal. But we must remember --- part of that wound is of our own making --- Because we are too weak to beat back the NRA and their political enablers, we in the US are condemned to thousands of gun deaths a year. Every one of them tearing deep wounds in a group of family and friends --- just as occurred last month in Wilbraham, Massachusetts.

Michael Meeropol is professor emeritus of Economics at Western New England University. He is the author with Howard and Paul Sherman of the recently published second edition of Principles of Macroeconomics: Activist vs. Austerity Policies.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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