By Shannon Watts, via The Indianapolis Star
Next weekend, in Indianapolis, members of the National Rifle Association will gather for the organization’s annual convention. They’ll hear from NRA officials flown in from Washington and politicians from across the country.
If past conventions are any indication, these leaders will again issue a series of talking points that actually run counter to the views of their members. Polls show, for instance, that 74 percent of NRA members and 82 percent of gun owners believe in the need for basic gun background checks — a view that Wayne Lapierre himself supported barely more than a decade ago.
But the extremism of the NRA’s leadership goes further than opposition to background checks. The gun lobby’s arguments for arming domestic abusers and allowing people under 18 to purchase guns from dealers proved too extreme for the Supreme Court.
Luckily, next weekend’s events in Indy will also feature another voice: Everytown for Gun Safety.
Launched this past week, Everytown combines the grassroots strength of Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. It will function as the most organized and passionate counterweight the Washington gun lobby has ever seen. And unlike the NRA’s leadership, Everytown stands with the 90 percent of Americans who believe that support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with common-sense safety measures like background checks that we know keep Americans safer.
Many of the members attending our events will be moms, a group that cares deeply about their children’s safety, and that hasn’t been at the center of the national conversation on gun violence – until now.
Moms won’t assemble in Indianapolis with the goal of antagonizing decent, law-abiding gun owners; in fact, many of Everytown’s supporters fit that description. We are, however, bringing attention to the ways in which the NRA’s leadership and its lobbyists have fundamentally distorted the facts when it comes to gun violence in America. They’ve spent millions of dollars on campaigns to create the false impression that people’s Second Amendment rights are under threat.
Everytown supporters will be in the Hoosier state to make the arguments that have been undercut by the NRA leadership for too long: simple 90-second background checks in no way infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights, and they make a difference in saving lives. Just look at the facts: in the 16 states that require background checks for all commercial gun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners, 39 percent fewer cops are killed with guns, and gun suicides occur at half the rate.
For too long, the side in favor of common sense hasn’t been heard, but that will no longer be the case. We will work with moms, mayors, gun owners, law enforcement officials, and millions of Americans to address a problem unique to our country: that guns cut 86 lives short every single day.
There is much to be done to reduce that number. Common-sense background checks, suicide prevention, and educating parents about the dangers of easy child access to guns are all initiatives we’ll take on.
For example, more than 2 million children in this country live in a home with unsecured firearms. Everyone can agree that responsible gun ownership means keeping loaded weapons out of the hands of young children. That will be a focus of our organization, because hundreds of children die every year in cases of negligence. If we can educate parents out there and keep just one gun from reaching the hands of a young child, then our effort is worth it.
We have a long way to go, but judging by all our success in the last year alone, we’re well on our way.
Moms and mayors have come together to help pass background check bills in Colorado, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Delaware. We got Starbucks, Facebook, and Instagram to change their gun policies in ways that will keep our communities safer. We worked hard in Washington state and Wisconsin to pass laws that will keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
These and other victories are evidence that moms are capable of taking the fight for sensible gun violence prevention laws beyond Washington, D.C. Moms in all 50 states are fully united in our mission and we’ll take this fight across the country — from state houses to city halls and even to the NRA’s own convention.
Watts is a mother of five in Zionsville and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.