Shannon Watts feels there comes a time when believing in a cause isn’t enough anymore, and people must stand up and fight for change – that’s what happened when she decided to start Moms Demand Action.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a non-partisan, grassroots movement of Americans fighting for solutions to gun violence endangering children, families and areas daily.
The organization is meaningful to those involved for many reasons, but for National Chapter Liaison Michele Mueller and Ohio Chapter Leader Kristine Woodworth it’s about making America safer for all.
“We’re really not trying to take guns away, we just want responsible ownership – [for people to] go through the legal process – and do away with unlicensed dealers because then we’re going to have that background check system in place and that’s a huge positive force of decreasing gun violence,” Mueller said.
Watts is the movement’s founder who, after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012, decided that women and mothers everywhere needed a place to raise their voices and bridge the gap between the will of the people and law enforcement. Though the group was started by moms and women, anyone can be involved. There’s even a student group called Students Demand Action for younger people to get involved in the cause.
“We were founded in the wake of a mass shooting and that’s what brought so many women to the movement, but we very quickly learned that gun violence is so much broader than that and that we care about gun violence in all of its forms,” Woodworth said.
Moms Demand Action built the organization on four goals: stronger background checks, promoting gun safety to the people, supporting reasonable limits on guns in public places and creating a survivor program for those affected by gun violence.
Strengthening universal background checks isn’t just a goal of Moms Demand Action: 83% of Americans support universal background checks, according to a National Public Radio poll. The organization believes that background checks are the most important mission because it can decrease guns falling into the wrong hands.
When customers buy guns from a licensed dealer, they receive a background check required by federal law. But, there are unlicensed dealers online and at gun shows that don’t require background checks. The group believes that to be the most dangerous loophole, so they want to eliminate unlicensed gun dealers and provide stronger background checks when buying guns.
The second goal of promoting gun safety to the people has to do with the fact that every day, nearly 100 Americans die by gun violence, whether it be unintentional or intentional shootings. Suicides account for two-thirds of shootings per day, and unintentional shootings are largely accounted for by children 17 and under who had access to guns that simply weren’t locked up.
These statistics urged the group to create the “Be SMART” program. SMART stands for Secure all guns in homes and vehicles, Model responsible behavior around guns, Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes, Recognize the role of guns in suicide and Tell your peers to be smart. Moms Demand Action isn’t anti-guns, they’re pro-responsible gun ownership.
The group’s third goal is to support reasonable limits, which involves where people can carry their guns. This includes banning carry in sensitive areas like daycares and college campuses. The group is asking corporate America to stand up and fight against open carry of guns in establishments where children and families are present.
The organization’s final goal is its survivor program. Without laws to completely control guns, gun violence is unavoidable. The survivor network connects people who have survived gun violence, have lost a loved one to gun violence or identify as a survivor to gun violence.
More than anything, Woodworth and Mueller feel that as mothers, it’s their duty to make the world safe for their children and grandchildren.
“Looking back when my children were little, the world they grew up in was not anywhere near as focused on gun violence or as afraid, and I don’t want children to have to grow up afraid,” Woodworth said. “And as a mom, you look at other children and you can always see your kids in those kids. It’s a visceral connection to all children.”
Mueller’s youngest granddaughter, then eight years old, was deeply impacted by Sandy Hook, and it was her reaction that inspired Mueller to do more in terms of implementing stronger gun control.
“She had a hard time processing how an individual did [the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting], so she literally asked the family ‘was there a war going on in that school?’ because she couldn’t fathom that it was a single individual, she just thought it had to be a war,” Muller said. “I knew at that moment I had to do something.”
Woodworth and Mueller have been fully invested in Moms Demand Action ever since. They both encourage other people to get involved in this organization by texting “ready” to 64433, or students can participate in Students Demand Action by texting “students” to 64433.
Moms Demand Action believes it epitomizes grassroots activism, and the moms and members involved will never stop fighting for a change in gun control.
“Shannon says it’s ‘The unglamorous heavy lifting of grassroots activism,’” Mueller said. “When we have a win, that’s the glamorous part. But everything else flies under the radar and these women are doing the unglamorous work to have the meaningful payoff.”
Illustration by Riley Scott.