The tragedy that struck Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, a little over a year ago shocked the country and left all of us—especially parents with young children—heartbroken. In the aftermath, Americans offered prayers and expressions of support—and many asked a basic question: What more can we do to stop such senseless gun violence?
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America grew out of that question. A Facebook page created on Dec. 15, 2012, one day after the massacre, quickly attracted mothers from across the country, and those moms—and more than 130,000 others—have since organized chapters in all 50 states.
The passion of moms who think every day about the safety of their children, families and neighborhoods helped make the group a prominent voice in the gun debate. And Moms Demand Action quickly tapped into a sense of frustration that many Americans feel about gun violence—the same sense that so many mayors feel. In 2006, a group of 15 mayors came together to form a bipartisan coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, devoted to cracking down on gun violence. And like the moms’ Facebook page, the mayors’ coalition was soon flooded with supporters. Today, more than 1,000 mayors—from every region of the country—belong to the coalition, which has 1.5 million grassroots supporters.
The American people understand that gun violence is a problem that requires action. Every day, 33 Americans are murdered with guns, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and most of those guns are possessed illegally. There are federal laws on the books that have blocked more than 2 million felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people from getting their hands on guns since 1998. And while the Washington gun lobby would have you believe these laws don’t work, there is little doubt they’ve helped save countless lives.
But today, gun buyers with something to hide are turning to unlicensed “private sellers” over the Internet and at gun shows who aren’t required to conduct background checks. It’s like offering two lines at the airport, one with security and one with none. Criminals are naturally choosing the latter. And Americans are dying as a result.
Closing dangerous loopholes in the background check system and strengthening enforcement of the laws already on the books is an uphill battle. For decades the gun lobby has had the field to itself, fear-mongering to raise money and sell firearms, and claiming any measure to keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a step on the way to gun confiscation, which is of course nonsense. Those falsehoods have undermined public safety for generations, allowing millions of innocent Americans to be murdered.
Michael Bloomberg is mayor of New York.
Shannon Watts is founder of Moms Demand Action.