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Dear Jay Leno

November 21, 2014

I realize you may still be smarting a bit from our #JokesOnLeno campaign on Twitter, so I wanted to explain why it was so important for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to ask you not to host an event for an extremist, radicalized gun lobby group—especially one based in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m also writing to thank you—loud and clear—for doing the right thing and canceling your participation.

When Moms Demand Action found out you signed on to emcee a dinner for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), I’ll admit, we flipped out. That’s because this very same group—just after the mass shooting of 26 innocent Americans in the sanctity of Sandy Hook Elementary School—virulently opposed common-sense background check reform intended to keep guns out of dangerous hands.

The NSSF faced a once-in-a-generation decision: help pass background check reform supported by more than 90 percent of Americans and nearly 80 percent of gun owners, or serve as an obstacle to saving lives. From their headquarters just a few miles from the site of the Newtown massacre, the NSSF thumbed their noses at the families who lost children and loved ones that horrifying day, choosing instead to tout their extremist agenda.

The power and influence of the gun lobby needs to change. And that’s why Moms Demand Action exists—to drive that change.

Just like many Americans, you did not have a complete understanding of what you were wading into, or the radicalism of the group you were supporting, but Moms Demand Action knew that you had spoken out publicly in favor of background checks. That’s why we took to social media to let you know what was really going on. We returned to social media again just 24 hours later—this time to say #MomsThankJay when you did the right thing and cancelled your NSSF appearance.

Moms Demand Action and our nearly 2.5 million supporters are truly grateful to you, Jay, and to other influencers who have the honor and courage to stand up against gun violence and the lobbyists who perpetuate it—even if it did take some prodding from moms and resulted in vitriolic backlash from gun extremists.

Just last week, singers Jenny Lewis and Mike Watt and comedians Sarah Silverman, Tim Heidecker, Kurt Braunohler performed at a sold-out Los Angeles show to benefit gun violence prevention efforts and to raise awareness about this life-saving issue. We need more public figures to show that same courage.

I know all too well how scary it can be to wade into a divisive issue that stirs up online trolls and gun bullies. And if someone like you and someone like me—a stay-at-home mother of five in suburban Indianapolis—can stand up to the threats, bullying and attacks, others can too. And their reputation among moms and women will be all the better for it.

Despite the attention that a vocal, extremist minority gets by opposing gun safety, the reality is that this is NOT a divisive issue. Just like you and me, a majority of Americans believe we can and should do more to keep our communities safe from gun violence, and support common-sense measures like background checks. At the end of the day, we just want to save American lives, like the lives of the 20 children and six educators who were murdered by a gunman in Connecticut two years ago next month.

Moms Demand Action is changing America’s culture of gun violence one law, one election, one company, and now, one comedian at a time. In fact, by standing up to the NSSF and canceling your appearance, one of America’s favorite comedians has actually done more for gun safety since the Newtown tragedy than the United States government. And that’s why #MomsThankJay.


Shannon Watts
Founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

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