By Shannon Watts*
As a mother of five, I was devastated by the mass murder of twenty children and six educators at Sandy Hook School nearly four years ago this week. So I started a Facebook page from my kitchen counter in Indiana, which connected me with moms from all over the country who agreed our country must do more to prevent gun violence. Today, Moms Demand Action has a chapter in every state and is the grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the U.S.
Four years ago today, when I started that Facebook page, I wasn’t much of an activist, and I definitely was not an expert in our country’s porous gun laws or the carnage of everyday gun violence in America. However, I quickly learned that our nation’s gun laws were leaving our communities at risk and that there are simple, common-sense legal and policy solutions to reduce rates of gun violence in our country.
The single most important thing we can do to reduce gun violence is to require a criminal background check for every gun sale. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., already do this for all handgun sales. In states that have closed the background check loophole, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, 48 percent fewer law enforcement officers are shot and killed, there are 48 percent fewer firearm suicides, and there is 48 percent less gun trafficking in cities. Background checks work – and that’s why Moms Demand Action volunteers have worked to pass or strengthen background check laws in eight states since the tragedy at Sandy Hook School.
What’s more, there is broad support for these laws. In fact, nearly 90 percent of all Americans—including strong majorities of gun owners—support common-sense gun safety laws like background checks. That’s why, on Election Day, our movement scored significant victories: Voters in Nevada, Washington and California voted “yes” on life-saving gun safety initiatives. And we paved the way for new gun safety laws in New Mexico by electing gun sense champions to the state legislature. We fired U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte for repeatedly voting against gun safety laws. And we protected previous victories in Colorado and Oregon, helping our champions win re-election and ousting gun lobby favorites.
As we face the political reality of 2017, we are more ready than ever to fight the NRA’s “guns everywhere” agenda at every turn. The NRA’s top priority is federally mandated concealed carry reciprocity, which would force each state to recognize concealed carry laws from every other state—even those states that allow people with violent criminal records, domestic abusers, and people with no safety training to carry loaded, hidden guns in public. This is a patently dangerous policy—and we will fight it in Congress.
Our movement has never been about one election or one piece of legislation—it’s about saving lives. When I founded Moms Demand Action it was because I needed to find a way to be part of the solution. In the past four years, Moms Demand Action has become a movement – and we will never again be silent in the face of gun violence.
*Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and a leader of Everytown for Gun Safety.