Since starting my Substack, I haven’t written much about gun violence — partly because I want “Playing with Fire” to be a creative outlet for other ideas and subjects, but also because one of the reasons I stepped back from my leadership role with Moms Demand Action — the grassroots army I founded in 2012 — is because I felt I’d said everything I had to say on the topic. However, after the horrific, senseless and wholly preventable mass shooting in Maine last week, I’m realizing that some of the things I’ve said for years will occasionally bear repeating. Especially for people who are just deciding to become gun safety advocates or gun sense voters.
I used to be one of those people who would weep and yell at the TV after every mass shooting. I would wring my hands and pitifully cry - why is nobody doing anything, how can this keep happening? My husband turned to me and asked me what I actually achieved by all the wailing and shouting. He asked me how it this was helping anything. My immediate reaction was - damn, that's harsh and I felt resentful and probably didn't speak to him for the rest of the evening. The next morning, I grudgingly admitted (to myself) that he was right and I started looking for organizations that seemed to be doing something about gun violence. I found Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. I signed up right away - this was the day after the Pulse Night Club Shooting where 49 people were murdered and another 53 injured. I've been an active volunteer ever since. I still weep and yell at the TV after every mass shooting, after every neighborhood shooting, after every survivor story, but I feel I've earned that right because now I'm doing something to help. I know that things are happening because I'm helping to make it happen. I see that laws have been passed in New York State because of political pressure brought to bear by thousands of gun violence prevention activists, by helping to elect gun sense politicians. So, I'll cry if I want to. Thanks, Shannon.
Nice; voting in record numbers is a goal whose time has come. l hope Democrats can achieve a 75 percent eligible turnout rate in every Congressional District in 2024. If not now, when?
Thanks for this. Moms Demand Action groups welcome the help with open arms.
When Mark Kelly won’t support a ban on ARs, I have no faith that it will happen.
I follow four groups, Moms Demand Action under Shannon Watts's leadership is head and shoulders over Giffords, Sandy Hook Promise, and Brady, who also do yeoman’s work in this arena.
When looking for a group to volunteer with, I found the groups to be mostly complimentary vs. competitors in this space — covering different aspects from advocacy and education to legislation and advocating for whole health wrap-around services for survivors and their families.
In the end, I decided to admire from afar. My true passion is voting rights and fair maps. My extender is as a Black woman helping Black women get elected — esp. to governor’s and federal seats. Tragically, this nation does not have an elected Black woman governor, nor has it ever had one.
We also do not currently have an elected Black woman U.S. Senator. California Governor Gavin Newsom appointed Laphonza Butler to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s seat after she passed away last month, but she will not seek the seat permanently.
Wes Moore, the governor of Maryland, is the only Black governor of any state.
I’m focused on voting rights and fair maps because I come from a legacy of attorneys, politicians, and activists who instilled in me that voting rights are foundational to ALL other rights — including gun reform rights.
It's not an either-or proposition. It's both-and. Many of the same people behind the 500 pieces of gun legislation, including the terrible, horrible, tragically awful SCOTUS case this term of U.S. v. Rahimi, are the same people in different organizational suits behind the 500+ cases moving through state legislatures up to SCOTUS making it harder for some folk to vote. At the same time, they claim some folk in urban centers of population filled with Black and brown people are cheating without proof. It's the 1960s pre-Voting Rights Act “Jelly Bean Counting Test.” Only in 2023/24, it occurs after you cast your ballot in the form of signature match challenges, voter ID challenges, voter purges, etc., all made legal by new Jim Crow 2.0 voting laws, elimination of polling places, and racial gerrymandering.
Yet, it's so much more. It's voting rights, fair maps, gun reform, birth control, the right of a woman to a legal and safe abortion, to safely end a non-viable pregnancy that may threaten her life, to receive life-saving maternal and OB/GYN care throughout her pregnancy and in labor, especially if she lives in a state that has terminated her right to privacy in making these decisions and introduced her doctor, her hospital’s legal counsel, insurance company, insurers legal counsel, and potentially local law enforcement into the labor and delivery process.
And, it's more than that — where is the line now when an LGBTQ+ couple decides to get married? They want to have custom wedding bands made. They receive a referral to an amazing jeweler from an aunt. Out on Saturday morning errands, they realize they are a block away from the jeweler’s store. They think nothing of the absence of a rainbow flag decal in the window until the jeweler turns them away, citing her belief in marriage between one man and one woman. She informs them of the Supreme Court’s 303 Creative decision. She sarcastically smiles and asks them if they saw her “I support 303 Creative” sign in the window. Humiliated, they immediately leave.
My grandmother used to tell us, “Pick a side. Stand for something, or you will fall for anything, baby.” We are there. Am I passionate about gun reform? You bet I am! I have a 13-year-old granddaughter. We have the most intelligent discussions about gun reform I have with ANYONE.
It tugs at my EVERY heart string!! She can identify every kid at this less than two-year-old school building that isn’t okay. When it comes to identifying potential mass shooters, she worries most about the ones who no longer attend school there, knows the school and its vulnerabilities, and might come back.
She worries they would return to the class they hate, the kids they hate, or the teacher they hate. They’d find them huddled in a corner like they’re taught in active shooter drills.
She thinks it's ridiculous nowadays that all schools aren’t built on one level. Each class with breakout windows letting kids escape a mass shooter. Out of the mouths of babes...