Joan Peterson will never forget the day she heard her sister, Barbara, was dead.
"My sister was shot and killed in by her estranged husband in a contentious divorce. She had been in divorce proceedings for over three years. And it wasn't going well," Peterson said.
The estranged husband was Russell Lund, Jr., heir to the family fortune of Lunds, a Twin Cities grocery store chain. One day in 1992, Barbara went to his house with her new partner E. Kevin Kelly, a former Iowa state senator.
"And that was a mistake. She never should have done that. But she wanted this to be over and she brought some papers and went over with the person she now had a relationship with. We don't know what happened or how he got them in the house, but he shot them both and killed them both," Peterson said.
Lund later committed suicide in a psychiatric treatment facility.
Since then Peterson, a Duluth resident, has worked to become a gun violence prevention activist and was recently honored by the YWCA as a Woman of Distinction for her activism and volunteerism.
Peterson attended the first "Million Mom March for Sensible Gun Laws" in Washington D.C. on Mother's Day in 2000. The march was held by Donna Dees Thomases in reaction to a shooting at a preschool in Granada Hills, Calif.
"There weren't a lot of places or opportunities for activism or getting involved in movements," Peterson said.
Peterson returned from D.C. a determined advocate for gun violence prevention and formed the local chapter of Million Mom March. Fourteen years later she's served as chair of Protect Minnesota, the secretary on the board of Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs. Currently she is on the national board of the Brady Campaign, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control. And now people from D.C. have come to her.
On Oct. 23, Peterson met Vice President Joe Biden while he was on a tour on behalf of Rep. Rick Nolan.
"It was very cool to meet Vice Biden. I wasn't expecting this; I thought they would whisk him off, but he did come around and shake hands. And when I said I was on the Brady Campaign, he gave me a big hug," Peterson said.
Biden has been very supportive of the Brady Campaign, she said. He lead the charge to change gun laws after Sandy Hook.
"The President put him in charge of the effort. Which was very cool. Just because he's always been supportive," Peterson said. "It's gratifying to meet the folks that you know are going out there and working for the thing that you're so passionate about."
Peterson met another passionate advocate earlier that week when she and 15 other domestic violence and gun violence protection activists met with former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords survived an assassination attempt in 2011 when she was shot in the head at a public event. The attack killed six people.
Giffords recently completed a nine-state tour with her gun-control advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Peterson met with Giffords in Minneapolis on Oct. 20.
"It was a small group, so we had a chance to talk pretty freely, to offer what we thought were the problems and what were the solutions. It was a wonderful event. She listens very carefully. Of course she doesn't talk much. But when she gives a prepared speech, she talks pretty well," Peterson said.
Giffords remains partially paralyzed from the shooting and continues to have difficulty speaking. Giffords shared her story and then listened to the stories and ideas from others.
"Telling stories is important and I've found that even though it has been 22 years since my sister was shot, the story still resonates. It's the story of way too many people," Peterson said.
Sometimes listeners are not so receptive.
"I've made visits both at the State Capitol and in Washington D.C. where we've gone around to people who are not necessarily on our side. They'll hear you out, but when you walk out the door you just think, well, that person is probably not on our side. But they'll listen at least," Peterson said.
Peterson also uses blogging to spread her story and others' stories and to provide information.
"There's a whole national network of people on social media like Facebook and Twitter. We've gotten to know each other in cyberspace, even though we've never actually met each other. We try to educate people and connect with them," Peterson said. "I call my blog commongunsense.com because the idea is that we can have common sense when it comes to gun laws."
Being that gun control is a controversial issue, Peterson has both positive and negative reactions from readers.
"I have gotten some support. But my blog has also attracted some gun-rights extremists who are always willing to get on my blog and tell me what they think and it's not often very nice. Some of it is going back and forth with people and sometimes it gets pretty ugly. But I try to be civil," Peterson said.