An Open Letter to Media on Gun Violence
I know you’re exhausted. You’ve written the same story and headline so many times you’ve lost count. You’re struggling to find a new angle on the latest gun violence tragedy that we’re mourning, even though Americans are traumatized by gun violence every damn day. You’re calling bereaved survivors, hoping to find some grace in their grief.
In the quiet moments after deadline, you may be mourning yourself.
And yet, Congress has failed to take even minimal action to prevent gun violence. I hear the frustration in your voice when you call me from your desk to ask, “Are we numb? What will it take for anything to get done on guns?”
It’s easy to feel hopeless after yet another senseless, preventable tragedy. No other developed nation experiences gun violence at these rates, and school children in peer nations don’t regularly have to practice hiding from gunmen in their classrooms. All this is deeply upsetting — I agree. But are we numb?
Those who claim “nothing has happened on guns” aren’t paying attention. It’s true that we haven’t had the cathartic moment in Congress we so desperately want and need — for Congress to finally stand up to the gun lobby and close the background check loopholes that allow dangerously easy access to get guns.
But Congress isn’t where this work begins — it’s where it ends.
It’s been five years since I founded Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. What I started as an online discussion the day after the Sandy Hook School shooting has grown rapidly into an offline movement, that now, together with Everytown for Gun Safety, has more than 4 million supporters and a chapter in every state.
This is a movement driven by everyday Americans unwilling to accept our nation’s gun violence crisis as the new normal, as well as thousands of survivors of gun violence, who joined the Everytown Survivor Network knowing far too well the lifelong trauma that comes with surviving gun violence. We will never be silent.
If you want to see Americans taking on the gun lobby, go to the states. Walk into just about any hearing or vote on a gun bill in an American statehouse and you will find gun violence survivors and Moms Demand Action volunteers in their red t-shirts testifying for gun safety and reminding legislators that parents are paying attention.
Moms Demand Action volunteers in Austin, Texas, for their annual advocacy day in the statehouse
This is hard work. Moms Demand Action volunteers in every state are hustling to their jobs and to take care of their families, and running to the statehouse on lunch breaks to spend their precious free minutes to fight the gun lobby and demand their legislators stand up for public safety. Gun violence survivors are doing all that while still processing their grief and anguish.
And we’re winning. Since 2013, Moms Demand Action chapters and gun violence survivors have helped to pass laws in 25 states that will help to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. That’s critical work. In the U.S., at least fifty women are shot and killed by current or former intimate partners every month, and the majority of mass shootings in this country are related to domestic violence.
We’ve also passed ballot initiatives closing background check loopholes in states, legislation to alert police if a prohibited purchaser tries to buy a gun and elected gun sense champions — sometimes including our own volunteers, who found themselves fed up with their representation and ran to replace them.
We’re also blocking bad bills. The NRA spent more than $50 million to elect a gun lobby-backed Congress and President. And still, the gun lobby’s priority legislation has failed to pass through Congress. And gun lobby priority legislation was defeated or failed to advance in the 2017 legislative session in more than 30 states.
A Chicago volunteer, Brenna O’Brien, unfurls a long list of Moms Demand Action’s accomplishments on Good Day Chicago
These wins don’t always make the news, but if wasn’t for Moms Demand Action volunteers, these bills would have sailed through statehouses, and our reality would look much more like the NRA’s bleak, dangerous vision for America.
Trust me when I say there is no “intensity gap” on this issue.
As journalists like you call me to ask if Americans are numb to gun violence, our volunteers are fighting on the ground every day in their communities and capitals. We held more than 700 vigils and rallies following the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds. After 46 people were shot — 26 of them fatally — in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Moms Demand Action committed to making one million phone calls before midterms to stop the NRA’s deadly agenda.
Volunteers at a vigil in Knoxville, Tennessee, following the mass shooting in Las Vegas
Every single time tragedy strikes (and it strikes far too often in the United States), our movement turns outrage into action. There’s no doubt that some lawmakers still fear the NRA, but slowly we’re proving that the outraged mothers of America are far scarier than any gun lobby lobbyist.
So please, don’t feel so defeated, journalists: We are not numb. And you shouldn’t be, either.