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Norri Leder: ‘When people see our red shirts, it feels like we’re wearing a cape’

Norri Leder got involved with Moms Demand Action in Texas at the very beginning, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School.

Norri smiles while holding a dog and standing next to another Moms Demand Action volunteer

Norri Leder got involved with Moms Demand Action from the very beginning, after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School. The shooting felt deeply personal to her, and as someone from Houston, Texas, she was well aware of the impact of gun violence. “I knew it could be me or my family. It was so obvious that laws needed to be changed, and I wanted to use my voice as a mother and an average citizen to advance that,” she said.

Since then, Norri has been a tireless advocate for gun reform in Texas, a state with some of the weakest gun safety laws in the country. One of her proudest accomplishments involved helping to expose open carry extremists in Texas. These groups would post about open carry events, including showing up at strip malls or businesses open carrying rifles, with a goal of normalizing this behavior. Moms Demand Action volunteers were able to capture images of people carrying loaded long guns in common businesses like Chipotle and Target, and these images were immensely powerful in influencing others to get off the sidelines.

Norri smiles while holding a Moms Demand Action sign next to a person holding a Students Demand Action sign

Being a part of Moms Demand Action since its founding, Norri has seen the narrative shift for gun violence prevention. She recalled being asked to take down a Facebook photo she had posted of her and other Moms Demand Action volunteers with a candidate running for office, because the campaign feared it would hurt their chances of winning. Now, she recognizes that Moms Demand Action is actively sought out.

“When people see our red shirts, it feels like we’re wearing a cape,” she said. “Locally and nationally, we have built powerful alliances and connections with lawmakers and their staff, as well as community stakeholders who work on the issue with us… We’re authorities and valuable allies now.”

Norri has also formed lifelong friendships with her fellow Moms Demand Action volunteers. It’s these friendships and working with other incredible women who are laser-focused on making change that help keep her going. “Any time you meet a Mom from anywhere, you feel an instant kinship… We are there for each other during times of personal strife and to celebrate good moments. We cheer each other on, tell each other when to take a break, celebrate wins, and bemoan losses together,” she said. “We have each others’ backs.”

Now, nearly ten years since the Sandy Hook School shooting, Congress has passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in response to another devastating school shooting—this time in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022. Since the shooting, Norri has seen tremendous growth in the work she’s been involved in from the very beginning: Texas Moms Demand Action gained 20,000 members in the last month alone. 

“We’ve made huge inroads, and we will continue to. It’s difficult work and requires great patience and persistence. But there is no way I’m quitting after we’ve pushed the needle this far. This is the most gratifying work I’ve done in my life, and I’m in the fight for the long haul.

Norri recognizes that this moment—with the first meaningful gun safety law in nearly 26 years and many more Americans desiring to turn their outrage into action—marks a turning point in the gun safety movement. However, there is still more that needs to be done to keep our schools and communities safe.

“Uvalde created massive energy around this issue,” she said. “It laid bare for all to see the flaws and weaknesses in our system: the ease of buying guns and military style rifles and ammunition, the absence of basic safety measures like Red Flag laws, and the failed notion that we can rely on reactive measures like hardening schools and law enforcement response alone to address this problem. We have to keep going for these families and children.”

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