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For eight years, the National Rifle Association (NRA) had a scapegoat in the oval office.
With President Obama in the highest office in the land, the organization would gaslight its members and the country at large with myths about Obama taking away their guns. But now that they’ve elected the president of their choice — the NRA spent more than $36 million on the 2016 election — the NRA has set their sights on a new set of targets: the media and minorities.
From racist ads to their silence on the death of Philando Castile, a licensed carrier, the NRA has remained steadfast in their quest to defend the Second Amendment. However, the NRA faces an adversary it couldn’t have foreseen: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Since 2012, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has fought the NRA and the gun lobby for laws and policies to keep communities safer. Founded by former communications executive Shannon Watts, the organization has established a chapter in every state in the country. With nearly 50,000 volunteers, Moms Demand Action has had both victories and setbacks in state legislatures.
As the faith outreach leader of Moms Demand Action, Lucy McBath has devoted her life to teaching others about the pervasiveness of gun violence. McBath said her late son, Jordan Davis, reawakened the activist in her after his death. Jordan was only 17 when he was gunned down by Michael Dunn at a Florida gas station in 2012. Dunn was sentenced to life without parole, plus 90 years for murder and attempted murder of Davis’ friends. Since Jordan’s murder, McBath has worked tirelessly in the fight for tougher gun restrictions across the United States. McBath said she is simply sharing what Jordan taught her about how to be a kind person for others.
“I feel like he [Jordan] has given me that baton and I have to carry that out. My father left a calling for me that was awakened once Jordan was murdered. I feel like I don’t have a choice. If I don’t do this work, if I don’t educate and empower people on how to be free from gun violence in their own communities, then more people will continue to die like Jordan.”
For Shannon Watts, her calling came in December of 2012. The mother of five was folding laundry when she heard the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook. Watts immediately turned to her network and started the Facebook group Moms Demand Action. What began as a way to unite locally grew into an organization of more than 50,000 members.
“I was watching the news for the next 24 hours [following Sandy Hook] and I started to see pundits come on and say ‘Those teachers should have been armed’ as if more guns and fewer gun laws was the solution to the problem and it made me so angry. I decided to start a Facebook page to start a conversation with other women who felt like this issue impacted them as a mom and wanted to do something. It was the power of social media. Within a week, I was on the cover on USA Today,” Watts said.
Another ah-ha moment came for Watts on election night 2016. Hillary Clinton supported background checks while Donald Trump was the NRA’s favored candidate. Trump’s win seemed like a hard blow to the organization’s mission. After leaving what she described as the world’s saddest party at the Jacob Javits Center on election night, Watts said there was a lot of depression afterwards amongst women who couldn’t believe the country would elect a man who had been so openly hostile towards women. But Watts said there was also a hopeful side to the election.
“We won three out of four ballot initiatives where guns were on the ballot. We kicked Kelly Ayotte out of office in New Hampshire after she had voted the wrong way on guns and background checks after Sandy Hook. We protected out gun sense champions in Colorado and Oregon. was worried people would say, ‘well this issue is not the most important issue for me anymore’, but I think because we’re so organized and plugged in that a lot of women joined us and we have grown.”
While the work has been fulfilling, there have been setbacks and uphill battles. Nearly every state has been bombarded with gun bills. The NRA is actively pushing lax gun bills because the organization officially has a seat at the White House table. However, the tide is turning on the side of Moms Demand Action. There have been several gun control victories in the legislature this year alone. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsh declared Florida’s new Stand Your Ground self-defense law unconstitutional in July. The ‘Protect Rhode Island Families Act’ passed after years of grassroots efforts from the Rhode Island chapter of Moms Demand Action. Despite the devastation of the Trump victory, both McBath and Watts says it has only made the fight for gun control even stronger.
“After people awakened from the devastation of Trump’s election, it has empowered them to say ‘how am I part of this process of change?’ Across the country, I’ve never seen as many women of all demographics – white women, black women, transgender women – people just stand up and say “we’re not going to allow this system or this President to continue to be biased, racist and discriminatory against people of color, women and Muslims,” McBath said. “I see this time as a reawakening.
As Watts points out, it’s the growing intersectionality of those groups affected by the country’s lack of gun control that will continue to see groups like Moms Demand Action remain a more than formidable opponent to the NRA.
“We’ve been able to get involved in more intersectional issues. It’s an issue that has some many different tentacles. Since the election, we’ve been able to partner with other varied organizations to talk about how gun violence impacts so many different communities.”
For more information on Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, visit their official website HERE.