Demanding action on guns

The Moms Demand Action organization began as a Facebook page more than 10 years ago, after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults. (EMILY LIU/The Sun)

Moms at the forefront of effort to stem the violence

The national gun control debate went local earlier this month in Camden County, with a rally sponsored by Moms Demand Action and its departing founder, Shannon Watts, on gun violence prevention.

The outcry over recent mass shootings – they now number 163 so far this year in the U.S., according to ABC News – tends to grab the headlines, and rightfully so: There have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2023, 30 just in the first 17 days in April.

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Moms Demand Action wants to go beyond those numbers even though the group began on Facebook in 2012 after the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, according to reporting in The Sun.

But as Watts explained at the rally in Collingswood on April 13, the group has now focused its attention on all daily gun violence. The nation averages more than 100 deaths a day from guns, according to the Gun Violence Archive, though the majority of those are suicides.

“We aren’t just trying to pass an assault weapons ban,” Watts noted. “We want background checks on all gun sales, we want to pass red flag laws, we want to pass secure storage, we want to unlock dollars for community violence intervention programs and more.”

It is that kind of grassroots effort that may be a solution to the rampant gun violence in America. There is now a Moms Demand Action chapter in every state, and the organization is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, another gun violence prevention group with nearly 10 million supporters.

It may also help to think of the effort in a different context than gun control: two words that immediately draw the ire of the NRA and other gun rights groups stubbornly beholden to their reading of the 2nd Amendment.

As suggested by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords – who was nearly killed by a bullet to the head during a constituent meeting in 2011 – it may be more effective to focus instead on gun safety, including safe storage of weapons, red-flag laws and other measures.

Instead of thinking about gun violence as a political battle, we should instead focus on it as a public-health issue, Dr. Liza Gold, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine, told Time magazine.

“The public-health model says you intervene in as many places as possible,” Gold noted.

That could include community mental-health programs to help prevent suicide. There are other ways to look at the gun scourge. Why are there more steps to adopt a dog and register to vote than there are to buy guns? Why do we keep teens from alcohol and cigarettes until they’re 21, but let them buy guns at 18 in an unregulated private or online sale?

Where is the culpability for parents who leave guns unlocked and unstored, as was the case recently when a 6-year-old – yes, 6 – shot his teacher in a Virginia first grade classroom?

His mother was subsequently charged with child neglect, but parental arrests are still rare. Watts believes that all of us need to “harness our collective anger” about gun violence, in community settings such as the Moms Demand Action rally.

Clearly there are mothers leading the effort. The rest of us should follow.

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