One mom’s Facebook group as grown into a powerful national gun control activism group
Like so many moms, Shannon Watts was horrified by the Sandy Hook shootings that claimed 26 innocent lives. The mother of five set out to find the gun safety equivalent to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, but all of her searches came up empty.
“I actually spent awhile looking online and I couldn’t find anything,” Watts told Scary Mommy. Rather than give up, the former corporate communications executive turned SAHM decided if a Facebook group for moms who wanted to see change in how America dealt with gun violence didn’t exist, she would just make one herself.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to start a Facebook page and just see what happens’,”she said. She started the page now known as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America, a group for people who support the Second Amendment but also believe in common sense gun laws to needed to prevent the gun violence that kills 91 people a day in America.
Her single page quickly snowballed into a national movement.
In December 2013, Moms Demand Action partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which are now both part of the umbrella organization Everytown for Gun Safety. Moms Demands Action operates as the grassroots branch of the organization. Members have meetings and spread awareness of their message on social media but they’re also going into statehouses, meeting with lawmakers and going into corporate boardrooms asking for policy changes in an effort to further their mission for common sense gun laws. The organization has grown over 800% since 2014. Currently every single state has a chapter.
Standing up against gun lobbyists and the NRA takes courage, and Watts has faced plenty of opposition along the way. But she knew from the start that her idea had the potential to effect real change, so there was never a question of pulling the plug on the project. “Within the first week I was getting death threats and threats of sexual violence. My kids were getting threats on social media. But at the same time I had moms calling me from New York, Montana, Texas, Chicago and other places across the country saying, ‘How do I start a chapter where I live?’”
Moms Demand Action has had tremendous success in the past four years. “We know how to play defense, says Watts. “We’ve stopped hundreds of bills in the last four years. Everything from guns on campus laws, to guns in K-12 laws, to permitless carry laws, to bills that would expand stand your ground laws.” What makes the organization such a force to be reckoned with is that their members aren’t just computer screen activists.”We need people not to just post and tweet about it,” says Watts. “When dozens of angry mothers show up in a state house or a board room and say, ‘We are the majority of the voting electorate, we make the majority of the spending decisions for our families and we will not tolerate our families being in danger,’ this makes a difference.”
“Lockdown drills are something that are bringing so many people into our organization because they can’t believe they’re sending their children to school to practice how to die,” said Watts. “There’s actually a much better solution,” she says. Which is figuring out how to answer the question, “How do we keep guns away from dangerous people?”
You don’t have to be a mother or even a parent to get involved in your local chapter of Moms Demand Action. Anyone can join. As Watts says, “This is about all caring Americans getting involved and saying that we need a safer future for our children.”