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Behind the Scenes at Illinois’ 2023 Advocacy Day

In May 2023, over 800 attendees traveled from across Illinois to rally against gun violence in Springfield. Here’s just a taste of how the day went.

Whenever our community’s safety or our nation’s gun violence crisis is discussed, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action volunteers, and survivors show up. Whether it’s at city councils, school boards, or in the halls of Congress, we are there. One of the ways we make a big impact in each state is through our annual Advocacy Days.

At an annual state Advocacy Day, leaders and volunteers alike travel from every corner of their state and gather at their Capitol buildings. Together, they strategize, learn, and talk to lawmakers to urge them to pass gun safety laws.

In May 2023, over 800 attendees traveled from across Illinois to rally against gun violence in Springfield. Here’s just a taste of how the day went.

Moms Demand Action executive director Angela Ferrell-Zabala poses with Moms Demand Action volunteers

Advocacy Day, travel time: 6:30 AM

Everyone piled into buses and carpools to arrive at the Capitol in Springfield by 10:30 AM. Some came from short distances, while others from even as far as Rockford and East St. Louis, traveling hours to attend this important event.

This year was extra special because we were able to celebrate the 16 Moms Demand Action volunteers who won their races in November, including 10 who are now members of the state legislature.

Moms Demand Action leaders were here to push for three important bills, including:

  • Gun Industry Accountability
  • Omnibus gun violence prevention, which was championed by former Moms Demand Action volunteer Maura Hirschauer
  • Homicide Victims’ Families’ Rights Act

Advocacy Day, Rally: 11:00 AM

Our rally began outside in front of the Capitol Building at the Lincoln Statue. We centered the inspiring leadership of the Illinois chapter of Moms Demand Action, the majority of whom are both gun violence survivors and women of color. And we discussed how formerly elected leaders could still be involved in making change.

Moms Demand Action volunteers hold signs toward the Illinois State Capitol

Several people joined us to share words of encouragement with Moms Demand Action leaders and gun safety advocates, including:

  • Kwame Raoul – Illinois Attorney General
  • Rep. Maura Hirschauer – former Moms Demand Volunteer from Batavia & gun sense champion
  • State Representative Bob Morgan – Highland Park
  • Angela Ferrell-Zabala – Executive Director of Moms Demand Action
  • Brenda Mitchell – Survivor fellow and Moms Demand Action co-Chapter Lead
  • Valerie Burgest – Survivor Fellow and Deputy Moms Demand Action Chapter Lead
  • Lauren Harper – Moms Demand Action State Leg Lead
  • Mirabella Johnson – Northwestern Students Demand Action
  • Halleh Akbarnia – Local Group Lead and emergency medicine physician
  • Chris Peters – Volunteer leader with Moms Demand Action Illinois

Here’s what Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Executive Director of Moms Demand Action, had to say to the crowd gathered:

“This work isn’t about what we do one day, one year or even one decade. It’s about creating real, lasting, intergenerational change—and that takes time…Please know your work is making a difference. Every election, every law, every gun sense conversation, it all moves us closer to ending gun violence.”

Angela Ferrell-Zabala

Advocacy Day, Lawmaker meetings: 12-3 PM

After a lunch break, our volunteers and leaders got to work meeting with lawmakers to discuss a path forward for the gun violence prevention bills we’ve been fighting so hard to pass. They shared their personal stories and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund’s research showing how common-sense gun laws can save lives.

“We need to be seen and heard because all of our lives are on the line.”

Mirabella Johnson, a Northwestern Junior with Students Demand Action

Advocacy Day, Debrief & Depart: 3:30 PM

Following a full day of running around the Capitol and talking to lawmakers, it’s a scramble to make it back to the buses and carpools on time to make it home for dinner. Just another day in the life of a Moms Demand Action volunteer.

Advocacy Day Outcome

The incredible news is that our work is already paying off: Just two days after Advocacy Day, the Industry Accountability Bill we advocated for with lawmakers passed. The bill still awaits signature from Governor JB Pritzker. We will continue our relentless advocacy for gun violence prevention legislation over the rest of the two year session, meeting with lawmakers, tabling, doing public education presentations and much more.

Want to be sure you’re on the invite list for the next Advocacy Day? Sign up to join our movement today!

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