When I started speaking out about gun violence prevention at local Democratic clubs around Houston in January of 2013, it was a hot topic because of the recent murder of twenty schoolchildren and 6 educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT a month earlier. Like many others, I had reached my breaking point knowing I could no longer look my children in the eye as a responsible adult if I did not act. So I spoke. I didn’t think big enough. Shannon Watts, a mother from Indiana, launched a Facebook site to show her anger at the Sandy Hook shooting, and it instantly resonated with other mothers. The group grew exponentially within months and soon, not only was I sharing the floor at Democratic clubs with equally impassioned moms, but there were branches of the movement in every state. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America touched a nerve.
And then something incredible happened. Nothing. Congress failed to pass any gun laws. Not universal background checks, not reporting of large ammunition sales, not a ban on large magazines or clips, no revisitation of the assault weapons ban, no consideration of gun trafficking becoming a federal crime. Nothing. That was followed by a fickle public blinking to see what Justin Bieber did yesterday, and gun violence prevention faded from the public eye. Until the next mass shooting. And the next. And the next. Soon gun violence was never out of the public eye.
All the while, Moms Demand Action continued to grow as a social media movement. Focus shifted away from the national political stage to the corporate boardroom. Several high-profile companies asked their customers to leave their firearms at home before entering their stores. And then, with the focus still on corporate responsibility, legislative fights were started in statehouses across the country at the local level. A war was being waged between activist mothers and the NRA juggernaut, and moms began racking up victories in states like Washington, Connecticut, and New York.
And then Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns saw the symbiosis of effort and merged with Moms Demand Action to form Everytown for Gun Safety. Finally, two of the many gun violence prevention organizations had joined forces and brought their considerable resources and talents to bear. No longer was the movement hopelessly fractured or outspent. Everytown had the social media wherewithal to pressure politicians and corporations and the financing to compete with the heretofore untouchable NRA.
And now as the number of school shootings since Newtown eclipses 150, the number of mass shootings surpasses 1,000, and 33,000 Americans continue to die from gun violence each year, there is a more equitable fight for the conscience and accountability of America. The movement is still splintered, but economies of scale aside, politicians are listening, and the public is responding. There is momentum. The apoplectic vitriol from some gun rights enthusiasts is proof that their previously sacred ground is shifting beneath them. No longer do people resign themselves to the NRA’s stranglehold on politicians or the inevitability of another wave of gun-related deaths. No longer do they accept as uniquely American the deaths and injuries inflicted upon our families and neighborhoods. Momentum is building for change; the momentum that will wash the streets clean of our national bloodbath. Thank you, Shannon, for thinking big.