Four years ago, a mass shooting inside a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school forever altered the lives of the families of 26 educators and first graders who were murdered by were murdered by a disturbed man with access to an arsenal of guns.
Out of that darkness came unwavering resilience and a commitment to act. Just as the Newtown community came together after the tragedy, so, too, did millions of mothers and caring Americans who were compelled to get off of the sidelines and become gun safety advocates.
It became clear after the shooting that Congress was just as broken as our nation. In fact, the outrageous response from many lawmakers after Newtown was to suggest more guns and fewer gun laws would solve gun violence – talking points dispersed by the powerful and wealthy gun lobby.
Instead of standing up to gun lobbyists, lawmakers said teachers and students should stand up to gunmen. And that’s when so many Americans realized it was time to act. Including me.
The day before the shooting at Sandy Hook School, I knew nothing about my state or nation’s gun laws; I assumed lawmakers were looking out for the safety of my family and community. But the day after the shooting, as I researched what was causing our nation’s gun violence crisis, I learned I was wrong.
Too many lawmakers are in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, pushing through their dangerous vision for America: Guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime – no questions asked.
That’s why on December 15, 2012 – one day after the shooting at Sandy Hook School – I started a conversation on Facebook with other outraged mothers. That online conversation turned into an offline movement: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Just four years later, Moms Demand Action has become the Mothers Against Drunk Driving of gun safety. As the grassroots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, we have a chapter in every state and more than three million supporters, making us the largest gun violence prevention movement in the country.
What we’ve accomplished in just four years is astounding. Gun safety was the silver lining of the 2016 election: Ballot initiatives in Nevada, Washington and California resulted in new, life-saving gun safety laws, despite strong opposition from the gun lobby. We supported candidates who put gun safety first and ousted those who put the gun lobby before the public safety of their constituents.
We’ve defeated gun lobby priority bills that would have forced colleges to allow guns on campus; allowed guns on K-12 schools; and dismantled state concealed-carry permitting systems to allow people carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit or training.
We’re also making cultural change by giving cover to corporations like Trader Joe’s, The Fresh Market and Levi Strauss & Co. that stand up for gun safety.
We’ve learned how to be the David to the National Rifle Association’s Goliath and 2017 will be no different. We’ll be there every step of the way as the counterweight to the NRA, pushing back against its dangerous agenda.
For me and so many other American mothers, the murder of six educators and 20 six- and seven-year-olds inside the sanctity of an elementary school made us realize our nation was broken and required fixing. But what I came to understand was that those deaths were but a small fraction of our nation’s gun violence crisis.
Ninety-one Americans are shot and killed every single day, and hundreds more are injured by gun violence. That’s more than 33,000 Americans who are fatally shot each year and over 100,000 injured. This is a crisis no other developed nation faces.
Addressing the everyday gun violence in America that never makes the headlines – in our urban centers and in rural outposts, and everywhere in between – has become Moms Demand Action’s mission. From suicides to domestic violence shootings to the shootings of law enforcement to shootings motivated by hate or racism, we are fighting to protect our nation’s most vulnerable.
American moms are more powerful and influential in this fight than I’d ever imagined. The gun lobby misled a vocal minority of gun extremists to believe their guns will be taken away, but millions of moms are afraid our children will be taken away. We are fiercely and fearlessly taking on one of the most powerful lobbies this nation has ever seen – and we are winning.
That’s because mothers won’t allow the gun lobby to go unchecked, dismantling life-saving gun laws without a fight. We won’t sit idly by while gun violence tears apart our families and communities. And we won’t allow the deaths of Americans – including the 26 educators and elementary students – to be in vain.