Shelley Joseph-Kordell
Shelley Joseph-Kordell
submitted by Rachael Joseph, in tandem with Robert Schentrup (available online only)

We have both had loved ones stolen from us unnecessarily because of preventable gun violence. In both cases, there were warning signs that the shooter would go on to perpetrate violence against themselves and/or others. We share our stories to encourage voters to replace the Minnesota Senate with one that will act to prevent future gun tragedies.

Robert Schentrup
The death of my sister Carmen Schentrup could have been prevented if Extreme Risk Protective Order policy (ERPOs) had been in place in my home state of Florida. Carmen was only 16 years old. She was a very smart and dedicated student who loved reading books, watching comic book movies, and playing with our pet dog, “Mocha.” Her energy, potential, and life was taken while she was in AP Psychology class at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018. She was on the first floor of the building, and was in one of the first classrooms to be shot into.The shooter continued throughout the building and took the lives of 16other students and staff, and injured 17 others before shedding his body armor, dropping his weapons, and walking calmly out the doors of the school, blending in with the crowd of students running away.

Rachael Joseph
My aunt Shelley Joseph-Kordell was harassed, threatened, and murdered. A distant female cousin began stalking Shelley. She sent her threatening letters. She left dead cats on Shelley’s doorstep. Over the span of a year, nearly 200 frivolous legal actions were filed by the harasser, who never won a single case against my aunt. Ramsey County courts eventually banned the harasser from filing anything else. So, she went to neighboring Hennepin County and filed another baseless legal action.

While the stalker waited for the September 29th hearing, she visited a Minnesota gun show and purchased a .38 revolver for $60 through a private sale, with no paperwork or background check required by state law. She visited the gun range several times in August. On September 29, 2003, the stalker brought the gun to the Hennepin County Government Center courthouse in her purse.

Shelley was scared that day. She requested a security guard accompany her and her attorney to the 17th floor courtroom. Shelley needed to use the restroom before court, and she asked the security guard to “walk with her, stand outside, don’t let anyone in.” That’s when the shooter approached Shelley’s attorney, Rick Hendrickson, and shot him in the neck at point blank range. The shooter rounded the corner where the security guard stood. He saw a woman approaching with a gun and ran. The shooter entered the restroom and shot my aunt to death.

If Minnesota conducted background checks on all gun sales, Shelley might have been met her three beautiful grandchildren.

If Minnesota had a red flag law, law enforcement could have petitioned the court for a hearing to remove the firearms from the harasser’s possession until she was no longer a danger to herself or others.

Because Minnesota lacks these gun safety laws, my funny, loving aunt was slaughtered on a courthouse bathroom floor.

If Florida had Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPOs) in place, law enforcement could have used the evidence they collected in the more than 40 visits to the Parkland shooter’s residence to establish a clear and convincing case as to why that person was an extreme risk to himself and the community.
Firearms could have been removed from the possession of Carmen’s killer so they could get him the help he needed. 

When an individual is experiencing a crisis, family and law enforcement are often the first ones to notice signs. ERPOs would allow law enforcement or a family member to go before a judge in a civil hearing, which could remove guns from a person in crisis until they’re no longer a danger to themselves or others.

Data shows that individuals experiencing mental health diagnoses are far more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators are. Interventions in states with Extreme Risk laws have already prevented many potential tragedies. Similarly, states that have closed the private sale loophole by requiring background checks on all firearm sales have seen most types of gun violence (domestic violence, gun suicide, gun trafficking) reduced by around 50 percent.

Governor Walz included both background checks and extreme risk protective orders in his priorities but, not his end-of-session budget. We ask that he and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan include these modest, life-saving measures in the next budget deal.

The Minnesota Senate had the opportunity to ensure fewer families experience the hell that ours have, by sending both bills to Governor Walz to sign. Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (Nisswa) refused to allow the Senate to even hear these life-saving bills. As a public servant, Senator Gazelka had an obligation to allow these bills to be heard and voted on. Minnesotans are exhausted from enduring one preventable shooting after another. Senator Gazelka and the Senate chose not to protect public safety; we will replace them with a Minnesota Senate who will.

Rachael Joseph is the niece of Shelley Joseph-Kordell and Executive Director of Survivors Lead, the nation’s only gun reform and direct service organization led fully by survivors. She is a political consultant, 2019 New Leaders Council Fellow, and serves on the Board of Directors of Art Is My Weapon-MN. Rachael lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children.


Robert Schentrup is the brother to Carmen Schentrup, one of the 17 victims of the Parkland School shooting. Since then, he has worked tirelessly on gun violence prevention, serving on the Team Enough Executive Committee, and helping lead a gun violence prevention chapter at his university. He is the Founder of Zero USA, an organization that partners with survivors of gun violence, and advocates across the country, to work toward zero preventable gun deaths.