When Michele Mueller first started a Moms Demand Action group in her home state of Ohio, she knew the fight for gun safety wouldn’t be an easy one. She had just joined the group in 2013 out of fear for the safety of her grandchildren, and soon after, hosted her local group of Moms Demand Action’s first meeting at a bookstore with nine people in attendance.
“At that first meeting, as we went around the table telling our stories about why we joined this movement, someone asked, ‘what’s next, what do we do now?’” Michelle, now an Onboarding Lead for the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action, recalled. “We knew the fight would be hard, and to take it one step at a time, that it was a marathon. We had to start somewhere. I remember that moment, and knew there was a pathway forward.”
Like so many others, Michele and her husband were outraged as they watched the devastating news about the Sandy Hook mass shooting in 2012. Her youngest granddaughter was 8 years old at the time—close in age to the 20 children who were killed in the mass shooting at their school—and was frightened to go back to class, “worried her school was next.”
“As grandparents, we knew we had to do something to get involved in some way to understand what was happening in America watching the rise in gun violence and we couldn’t sit on the sidelines any longer,” Mueller, an Ohio Moms Demand Action volunteer, expressed. “I saw the Facebook page for Moms Demand Action and all the outrage and grief. I felt this platform was a perfect place to help elevate our voices and take real action.”
As Michele looks back on her nearly 10 years of volunteering with Moms Demand Action, she thinks of the teamwork it took to make that happen. In 2014, Moms Demand Action began a campaign asking businesses to prohibit the open carry of guns in their stores. Volunteers collected 300,000 signatures to prohibit open carry—and in 2019, Kroger finally listened and prohibited open carry in their stores. Now, in 2022, Congress passed the first meaningful gun safety law in nearly 26 years with the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a victory won because of the foundational work that Michele and countless others have done since Moms Demand Action was founded.
While the victory in Congress is a momentous step towards safer communities, Michele stays grounded in the journey ahead by thinking about her grandchildren, the survivors of gun violence she advocates for, and the camaraderie she has built among her fellow gun violence prevention advocates in Moms Demand Action.
“I get to do this work with some of the finest people on this earth,” Mueller shared. “That might be the best surprise of my experience, meeting Moms across the nation and right here in Ohio, and the immediate bonding and respect for one another. They are the best tag team individuals on this earth. If you need a rest, they jump right in. If you need a laugh, they’re right with you. And if you need a cry, they hold you. If you feel down, they message you. If you’re brand new, they train you. If you feel stuck, they mentor you… I feel so lucky at my age to still find new friends and to hold on to the first friendships forever.”
Since the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings in May 2022, Michele has seen a meaningful shift in her work with Moms Demand Action. More volunteers are joining the movement and are continuing the legacy of volunteers before them. “We all remember that first action,” she said, expressing excitement for helping these new volunteers share the message of gun violence prevention in their communities.
“We wear our message on our beloved red shirts, and every day someone will ask you, ‘who are the Moms and what do they do?’ as that opens the door for the next voice and the next voice to continue this work,” Mueller expressed. “Someday they will step into your shoes and put on their red shirt with the promise to continue the journey of our movement for years to come, as they fight to keep all the wins for gun safety that happened before they asked, ‘who are the Moms?’”