Moms Demand Action builds awareness while affecting change

The Memphis chapter of Moms Demand Action envisions a new, safer future for our city's children. With the hope of improving gun safety, the volunteer group works to create a culture shift through legislation, activism and awareness.

 
Moms Demand Action started as a Facebook page by a mother of five. The day after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, Shannon Watts started an online conversation that has grown into a national grassroots movement for gun violence prevention.  

Moms has since been adopted as an initiative of the non-profit Everytown for Gun Safety. Everytown mostly takes on a research role, delivering statistics and reports about gun violence trends, while Moms is an on-the-ground effort which engages in much of the brunt work of activism – calling lawmakers, engaging people with social media campaigns, and planning awareness events.

One of these awareness events took place at the Loflin Yard on June 2. The Memphis chapter of Moms hosted this event in honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day. A few hundred people showed up to mourn lives lost to gun violence and rally Memphis residents to action. Mayor Strickland signed an official order declaring June 2 Gun Violence Awareness Day in Memphis. The event boasted high-profile speakers Senator Lee Harris and the President of the Civil Rights Museum, Terri Lee Freeman. Also among the speakers were two Memphis mothers who lost their teenage sons to gun violence — Tara Johnson and Tara Thomas.

The Memphis chapter of Moms works with chapters across Tennessee to affect change in state legislature. Most recently, their work resulted in Governor Haslam signing House Bill 1964 into law. The law requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to alert law enforcement when a known domestic abuser fails a background check while attempting to purchase a gun. Along with working on legislative advocacy, the Memphis Moms group hosts monthly chapter meetings and gives away free gun locks. They also teach a “Be Smart” course on how to properly secure guns and help reduce risk of gun injury or death for the two million American children living in homes with unsecured guns.
Mayor Strickland with Tara Johnson and Tara Thomas, holding the signed document declaring June 2 Gun Violence Awareness Day in Memphis
“The presentation is geared towards teaching the importance of safe storage to an adult, rather than teaching a child to stay away from a gun,” said Memphis Moms volunteer, Kristy Glassman.  

The Memphis chapter of Moms, like all chapters, is comprised mainly of volunteers. Like Kat McRitchie, the Media Spokesperson for Memphis, many of the members are mothers who want a different future for their children.

“I was a senior in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. I am an urban educator, and have been aware of gun violence in my students’ lives. But thinking about raising my kids where doing a lockdown drill is part of school the same way a fire drill is, I couldn’t allow my kids to grow up in a country that operates like this and do nothing,” she said.

Although Moms is made up of non-gun owners and gun owners alike, people are often critical of their efforts on social media.  
“I think the assumption is that we are coming after your guns and that’s not the case,” Glassman said. “We are not anti-gun. We are just trying to keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers, the mentally ill and toddlers.”

McRitchie embraces opening dialogue with people who may not understand what Moms is all about. “It’s amazing to actually have a conversation,” she said. “It’s amazing how quickly you can find shared space and common ground.”

At the end of the day, Moms is trying to create a culture shift through legislation, activism and awareness. With the nearly 12,000 Americans killed by guns each year, it’s no wonder that the Moms Demand Action movement has gained over three million followers.

“It’s all about trying to save lives,” McRitchie said.

Moms Demand Action is hosting a film screening of the Katie Couric documentary, Under the Gun, on June 28 at 7pm in East Memphis. RSVP to the screening by following this link. Individuals are able to donate money or join the group by visiting momsdemandaction.org.

 

Read more articles by Emily Rooker.

Emily Rooker hails from a small suburb in Michigan and attended college at Berklee College of Music. She is the Director of Community at Cowork Memphis, co-founder of The Lapel Project, active musician and freelance writer. Emily is passionate about community building, social activism, entrepreneurship, and living life like a tourist in Memphis.
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