From left, Rep. Stacey Newman, Shannon Watts and Dr. Michelle Sandberg.
We were strangers before the Newtown, Conn., massacre of 20 6- and 7-year-olds on Dec. 14, 2012. One of us is a lawmaker in St. Louis, one a pediatrician in San Jose and the other a stay-at-home mom in Indianapolis. The common denominator among us is that we are American mothers concerned about the safety of our children, and together we are members of a new organization: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Thanks to social media and the Internet, we have connected with other mothers, fathers and people all over the country, mobilizing them to act. March 13, the day before the three-month anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, more than 250 members from more than 30 states converged on Capitol Hill for “Moms Take the Hill Day”. After a meeting at the White House with Valerie Jarrett, chief adviser to President Obama, we met with almost 100 members of Congress demanding immediate action on common sense gun laws.
That afternoon we held a press conference in an overflow room named for Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who did not survive the Tucson massacre. We stood with women lawmakers including Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswomen Carolyn McCarthy, Carolyn Maloney, Rosa DeLauro, and Barbara Lee, who each spoke forcefully of what must be done to prevent further gun violence. Newly elected Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty who represents Newtown, spoke of her singular mission, preventing the next Sandy Hook.
We are not typical lobbyists but members of a vigorous grassroots movement that is spreading like wildfire across the country.
After past mass shootings in our country — 16 in 2012 alone — the pro-gun industry counted on the outrage among Americans to die down, for people to move on to other concerns. But this time — with the horrific images of a classroom of children gunned down in their elementary school seared into our collective memory — we will not forget. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is only three months old but already has more than 80,000 members in 80 chapters across the United States. And we’ve only just begun. Moms like us, from diverse backgrounds and professions, from different parts of the country, are joining forces to save lives.
We are not alone. Lawmakers in Congress and in state legislatures are dedicated to strengthening gun laws at the federal and state level, which are moving at a feverish pace. Recently, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted out both universal background check and assault weapons ban bills slated to move right away to the Senate floor. The Colorado state legislature has sent their governor a package of four firearm protections capping months of debate in a state that has experienced two of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Just a month after Newton’s shooting, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of firearm and mental health measures considered to be the toughest gun laws in the country.
And in Missouri, we work to pass House Bill 187, mandating universal background checks, sponsored by Rep. Newman.
It is past time to demand background checks on all gun sales, closing the NRA loopholes on gun shows and internet purchases. Eighty-five percent of Missourians, including a majority of gun owners and NRA members, overwhelmingly agree. It is past time to reinstate the ban on assault weapons, instruments of mass destruction that former Generals Stanley McChrystal and Colin Powell insist do not belong on our streets and near our schools. We side with law enforcement insisting that limits be placed on high capacity ammunition magazines.
We work side by side with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, consisting of more than 900 mayors across the country. Here in the St. Louis area, four mayors have signed on, including Mayors Francis Slay of St. Louis City, Linda Goldstein of Clayton, Shelley Welsch of University City and Daniel DiPlacido of Rock Hill.
Our cause is urgent. Every day, eight American children lose their lives due to gun violence. Since the Newtown tragedy more than 2,500 Americans have lost their lives to firearms.
We can no longer allow the gun lobby to put our children and families at risk. It is our responsibility to raise our voices and keep pressure on those we elect to do the same. We will not rest or turn our backs until we’ve done everything we can to stop the needless killings.
State Rep. Stacey Newman is a Democrat from Richmond Heights. Dr. Michelle Sandberg is a pediatrician in San Jose, Calif. Shannon Watts of Indianapolis is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.