Recently, I sat down with Joan Kazerounian, California Chapter Co-lead with Moms Demand Action, which was organized six years ago by Shannon Watts a stay-at-home mom with five children, after 20 children between the ages of six and seven years old were shot and killed in addition to six members of the adult staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. While Shannon was not from the area where this horrific mass shooting occurred, she thought I have had enough and decided to do something to help reduce the gun violence problem in our nation and better protect children and families.
“We as mothers need to do something about this.”
Shannon started a Face Book conversation and immediately had more people than she ever imagined saying, “Yes, we as mothers need to do something about this.” Response was coming in from all over the United States and the group increased rapidly. Having never done anything like this before Shannon realized she needed help and reached out to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). MADD gave Shannon their blessing to use their model. The conversation that Shannon started quickly turned into the largest gun violence prevention grassroots movement with over 5 million supporters.
Moms Demand Action grew exponentially causing Shannon to look for support and in 2013 she partnered with Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In 2014 Mayors Against Illegal Guns became Everytown for Gun Safety and now includes Moms Demand Action, Everytown Survivor Network and Students Demand Action, which joined Everytown for Gun Safety after the Parkland mass shooting in Florida in February 2018. Everytown for Gun Safety is a diverse group of volunteers with mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, police officers, gun owners, non-gun owners and survivors joining the movement.
“Our whole mission is gun violence prevention and pro-gun safety. We’re not anti-gun.”
I asked Joan to share about legislation that Moms Demand Action supports and she told me, “Everytown for Gun Safety does a lot of research enabling us to focus on common sense legislation on laws that will save the most lives. Because our whole mission is gun violence prevention and pro-gun safety. We’re not anti-gun, we believe it works beautifully with the 2nd amendment.
“We often pick the low hanging fruit.”
Every year Moms Demand Action works on legislation and closing legislative loopholes not only in California but throughout the nation. In 2015 they worked on the legislation that passed AB707 in California which keeps concealed carry guns off our school campuses. And in 2017 they worked on AB 424 that closed the loophole in AB 707 that allowed school districts to choose certain individuals on school campuses to carry a concealed handgun, banning this practice. Last year they worked on AB 2103, license to carry a concealed weapon requiring a minimum of 8 hours of fire training, which passed and was signed by Governor Brown in September of this year. Joan said, “California is a leader in gun violence safety laws and we are proud of this. We often pick the low hanging fruit in order to have laws that are common sense, emphasize safety and have a chance to pass in other states.”
Moms Demand Action recognizes all victims and survivors of gun violence and Joan said, “The number of Americans killed in mass shootings is beyond horrific and we don’t need to live or die like this. We should be able to go to church, the movies, our workplaces, night clubs, concerts or yoga class without the fear of being shot.”
Joan stated these facts:
- 96 Americans are killed daily by gun violence.
- The homicide rate in the United States is 25 times that of other high income countries.
- For every person that is killed two more have been wounded by gun violence.
- Access to a gun increases the risk of death by suicide by three times.
- Gun violence is disproportionate affecting African American communities at 56%.
- African American males are 18 times more likely to be shot and injured in assaults involving guns.
- Firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children and teens.
- Women in America are 16 times more likely to be victims of gun violence than women in other developed nations.
Joan and I also talked about red flag laws. She told me, “13 states have red flag laws.” Red flag laws are a mechanism enabling families to contact law enforcement when concerned a loved one, who owns a gun, may be a danger to themselves or others and a mechanism that authorizes law enforcement to issue The Gun Violence Restraining Order allowing them to enter that person’s home to temporarily remove guns from the home and prevent the purchase of new guns. This law was passed after the Ilsa Vista mass shooting in Santa Barbara County, CA in 2014.
Moms Demand Action is a plethora of resources and information for gun safety. One such resource is Be Smart for Kids, which teaches parents how to be gun safe in their home, using responsible gun storage and reducing child gun deaths. Trained volunteers hold Be Smart for Kids presentations throughout the state, with over 100 presentations done in 2017. The Be Smart for Kids program is endorsed by the National PTA.
“Diversion equity and inclusion in all our work.”
Moms Demand Action does a significant amount of outreach striving to be diverse. Joan said, “We are trying to put diversion equity and inclusion in all our work.” Faith communities are very important to them, partnering with them as often as possible. A local Methodist Church in Danville, CA offers their facility for the group in that area to hold their meetings, coming alongside Moms Demand Action in support of keeping their community safe from gun violence.
“We are an organization built on compassion.”
As our time together came to an end I asked Joan for any parting thoughts. She told me, “We are an organization built on compassion for all people and all Americans. We know we don’t have to live like this. Our organization helps people find their voice, their inner strength to become leaders and to turn their emotions into action creating a safer America for our children and families.”
To learn more about Moms Demand Action please visit the following websites:
If you’d like to learn more on how to become involved in your area:
Text ready to 64433
Students Demand Action. If you are a high school or college student:
Text student to 64433
Or contact Joan Kazerounian @ JoanKazerounian@gmail.com.
All photos courtesy of Moms Demand Action.