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We Need to Protect Our Communities from Senseless Gun Violence. Here Are 4 Ways to Start from Shannon Watts

We Need to Protect Our Communities from Senseless Gun Violence. Here Are 4 Ways to Start from Shannon Watts

By Stacey Lindsay
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This article was originally published in December 2021

In 2021, there have been at least 144 incidents of gunfire on school grounds (at the time this story was published). 'That is the most we've ever tracked in history,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots movement fighting for gun sense in the US. These numbers come after the deadly gunfire at Oxford High School in Michigan on November 30.The question that burns in our minds is: What can we do to stop this? Watts joined Maria to talk about the action each of us can take today. Here, her four things you can start on…today. As Watts informs us, we need to fight senseless gun violence of all forms that haunt our country. School campus shootings 'are just the tip of the iceberg.” This is about also preventing gun suicide. Gun homicide. Unintentional shootings. Domestic gun violence. 'All of it has to be addressed.”(If you want to watch Watt and Maria's full conversation, click here.)

#1: Push for Safe Gun Storage

Nearly 5.4 million children each year live in homes that have guns unsafely stored, meaning the firearms are loaded, unlocked, and within reach for accidents. Of that statistic, approximately 350 children unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else each year. There needs to be greater education and awareness around gun storage safety, which is not a standard that is required in this country, says Watts.To fight this, volunteers with Moms Demand Action have partnered with Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund to provide the Be SMART program, a framework to help parents and other gun owners act around responsible gun storage. Watts encourages parents to work with their local school boards and city councils to ensure the Be SMART safe storage materials are sent home with families.Learn more, become a volunteer, or donate visit: BeSmartforKids.org.

#2: Rally for Gun-Free Spaces

Twenty-one states allow permitless carry, also called 'constitutional carry,” which grants the carrying of a handgun…openly or concealed…without a permit. 'This is the NRA's dream. It's a public safety nightmare,” says Watts.To fight this, Watts and Moms Demand Action volunteers have been asking local businesses to prohibit permitless carry on their grounds. (They've seen successes at many large chains, including HEB Grocer and various Walmarts in Texas.) You can do this, too. Go to your local businesses…and governmental offices and other public spaces…and ask them to put up a sign against permitless carry. Do the same in states where you have family or a child in college.Watts cannot stress enough the worth of going door-to-door at the hyper-local level. In Virginia, Moms Demand Action volunteers have gone city council to city council to prohibit guns in sensitive places, she says. This has resulted in protecting more than 2 million people. 'That's something we can be doing in every state. We shouldn't have guns in buildings of democracy. We shouldn't have guns at protests.”To learn if your state allows permitless carry, visit Everytown for Gun Safety.

#3: Demand YOUR Seat.

There is a moral imperative to run for office yourself in this country…particularly for women, says Watts, who highlights that a mere 25 percent of elected positions are held by females. The opportunities are endless: Whether you run for sheriff or city councilwoman or to be on the schoolboard…demand a seat.Bonus: Volunteers with Moms Demand Action who are looking to run for office receive free training to bolster their chances of winning.

#4: Show Up and Be Heard.

Call your senator. Send an email. Knock on doors. In any form…reach out to your local and national lawmakers, build relationships with them 'regardless of what political party they're in,” says Watts, and stress the importance of the matter. 'This is not a polarizing issue anywhere in the country…except the US Senate.”And get seen: 'The most important thing that we can be doing is showing up at every gun bill hearing.” Legislative sessions generally start in mid-January, so now is the time to start planning. 'We have to be showing up because every single year the NRA tries to push its agenda.”

To learn more about Moms Demand Action and to get involved, visit momsdemandaction.org. You can also follow Shannon on Instagram at @shannonrwatts and purchase her book, Fight Like a Mother here

Stacey Lindsay

Stacey Lindsay is a journalist and Senior Editor at The Sunday Paper. A former news anchor and reporter, Stacey is passionate about covering women's issues. Learn more: staceyannlindsay.com.

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