Marie Delus had already lost one family member to gun violence when she walked past the TV in December 2012. She was at a holiday party on her way to get a red velvet cupcake when she saw a young news reporter say that a mass shooting had taken place in Connecticut. 20 children were dead.
“I became very upset,” she said. “That whole week I was back at work I was really upset.”
By the end of the month, Delus was on her way to being one of the early members of Moms Demand Action.
A survivor, Moms Demand Action leader, and Marine Corps veteran, Delus has been a part of the organization from when it began, through its merger with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to form Everytown for Gun Safety, and to the present day.
“I’m part of an organization that I want to be a part of,” she said. “I stay with it because I’m passionate about the work.”
While the Sandy Hook shooting is what led Delus to the fledgling group that would become Moms Demand Action, her family was impacted by gun violence seven years earlier.
On November 11, 2008, her nephew Pierre-Paul Jean-Paul Jr. was shot and killed in the Cambria Heights neighborhood of Queens, NY. He had been speaking to one of his friends while she waited for the bus outside of a McDonald’s. They hadn’t seen each other in several months, and they were thrilled to be able to catch up. Pierre-Paul asked her if she wanted to get something to eat.
“This simple invitation led to the loss of his life,” Delus said. “An individual snuck up behind the couple as they turned into the McDonald’s. The individual shot seven times; five bullets hit my nephew and the one that killed him hit directly in the heart.”
“The irony of the final placement of the bullet shall live with me forever.”
Working with other survivors has become one of the hallmarks of Delus’s involvement with the gun violence prevention movement. She developed a survivor rapid response team program in her native New York, designed to guarantee that Moms Demand Action volunteers attend events and support survivors in the immediate aftermath of an act of gun violence. Now serving as the Moms Demand Action Survivor Lead for New York State, Delus will be taking her ideas beyond her native New York City.
While serving as a volunteer lead in the Moms Demand Action New York chapter, she has also led initiatives to promote community engagement, diversity, and inclusion. That work visibly took shape in the 2019 annual march across the Brooklyn Bridge to support survivors and demand action on gun violence.
“We like to say we’re the first city who said they would march across the bridge for gun violence,” Delus said. Along with Moms Demand Action volunteers June Rubin and Allison Mayne Peters, she was one of the lead organizers of the 2019 march; the event been a success since it started in January 2013, when over 3,000 people showed up for the first march.
The march now happens in June to coincide with Wear Orange Weekend, with this year being the first one to focus on promoting diversity and inclusion; multiple coalition partners were invited to table and promote community engagement. Moving forward, Delus aims to work with even more survivors as part of her work with Moms Demand Action.
“The black and brown survivors, I’m really focusing on that,” she said.
Delus recognizes the importance of visibly demonstrating inclusion in the gun violence prevention movement, especially as Moms Demand Action continues to grow.
“It became bigger than I think a lot of us thought,” she said regarding Moms Demand Action. “We thought that we were only going to be at it for a short time. It’s become a much bigger movement, and I don’t think a lot of us anticipated it.”
“We did it,” she said. “Now we need to come together more actively, more visually.”