San Antonio Moms Demand Action members stand with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus at their Gathering for Gunsense in October of last year.
San Antonio Police Chief William McManus at a Gathering for Gunsense rally in October 2013. Courtesy photo.

A group of concerned parents are hoping to bring one of America’s most controversial issues into the scope of public health.

The national grassroots organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America made national headlines last month, when corporate giant Target announced it was changing its corporate policy and asking its customers not to bring weapons to their stores, just four weeks after Moms Demand Action started a petition asking for just that. Nearly 400,000 Americans signed the petition and San Antonio Moms Demand members attempted to conduct a Stroller Jam at the Park North Target in late June, but were asked to leave by management for wielding signs and petitions in a “distraction-free” shopping environment. Just days later, Target asked its customers to no longer bring weapons into its stores, in a move deemed a “big step backward” for the folks pushing the open carry of weapons in the U.S.

Moms Demand Action started in the wake of the Newtown school shooting on December 14, 2012 by Shannon Watts, a mom in Indiana who decided she was tired of the inaction on gun violence and formed an organization in the mold of Mothers Against Drunk Driving: to take on gun violence as the public health problem that it has become, a problem that is killing eight children and teens every day in the US.

Texas moms immediately joined the national grassroots organization, but Moms Demand Action got its legs in San Antonio last October when a local group decided to have a gun rally at the Alamo and Moms Demand Action instead rallied for gun sense: the idea that you can fully support the Second Amendment while still implementing sensible gun laws to protect children and communities from gun violence.

That should be reiterated because it is such an essential fact that is often either missed or denied: Moms Demand Action is not anti-gun. Many of its members are gun owners or have guns in their homes; its purpose is merely to ensure that guns are sold in the U.S. only to responsible citizens who can demonstrate through training and background checks that they should be able to own guns, and that other reforms are put into place to ensure safety for gun users and those around them.

San Antonio moms started hosting house parties to garner interest and awareness in the new group and its aims back in October, and things have taken off from there. San Antonio members primarily do their work from behind their laptops and smartphones; much of what Moms Demand Action does is sharing memes on Facebook, Tweeting, and emailing legislators about the need for common sense legislation that will address the growing public health crisis that gun violence has become.

San Antonio Moms (and Dads) Demand Action members protesting outside the Park North Target store in June. Courtesy photo.
San Antonio Moms (and dads) Demand Action members protesting outside the Park North Target store in June 2014. Courtesy photo.

Moms Demand Action also engages moms through activities like monthly calls to action based around crafts — things that moms can do at playdates with their children — while also sending a message to legislators about gun reforms.

For Valentine’s Day this year, moms and kids met and made paper hearts with a broken line across them with the message: “Our hearts are broken but our will is strong” and accompanying messages about the failure to pass a background checks bill in Congress last April. The hearts were then hand-delivered by moms in Washington, D.C., and to legislators here in San Antonio.

Moms also meet regularly for “Twitter-fests” and “calling parties,” where moms could either call their legislators using a script or send them messages via Twitter with hashtags like #momsdemandaction and #gunsense. Moms Demand Action executed successful campaigns to get restaurants and retail chains to change their gun policies, among them Starbucks, Facebook, Chili’s, Jack in the Box, Sonic Drive-In, Chipotle, and now Target.

Moms Demand Action members also regularly meet with state and local political leaders and law enforcement personnel, hoping to educate everyone with the essential message that gun violence prevention is a non-partisan, public health issue, not a political one. However, they know that change has to be made in the political realm & that the political battle in Texas is all uphill. And they are ready.

In January of this year, Moms Demand Action joined forces with Michael Bloomberg’s group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, joining the grassroots power of moms with the leadership influence of Mayors and city officials, and in April they announced the formation of their umbrella organization Everytown for Gun Safety. This organization consists of 1.9 million supporters including mayors, moms, and survivors, and has the potential to be a real powerhouse on the national stage, especially with the commitment from Michael Bloomberg to funding $50 million to the gun violence prevention fight. Money isn’t everything, however, and moms know that much of the battle is in the hearts and minds of Texans who cherish their “gun rights” as much as anyone.

It hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. Ever since they began their journey just 16 months ago, Moms Demand Action members in Texas have endured taunts, threats of violence, and the physical presence of bands of armed men outside their events. Back in November of 2013, four Moms Demand Action members met in an Arlington restaurant while approximately 40 men and women armed with semi-automatic weapons and rifles assembled in the parking lot outside. This is not a battle for the faint of heart.

This is no easy battle, but as moms see it, they are fighting for their children’s lives, and no need for unfettered access to guns without training or regulation can stand in the way of moms out to protect their children. There can be a happy medium in the gun reform argument and Moms Demand Action believes it has that.

According to communications lead Claire Elizabeth, “This is about sensible laws to regulate weapons that inflict deadly harm. We just want to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys, and expect adults to lock their guns where children cannot access them. Some would like to paint it as more than that, but we simply believe that with rights come responsibilities and that that is as Texan as it gets.”

In San Antonio and nationwide, Moms Demand Action will move forward with a campaign to get people to the polls in support of gun violence prevention. To that end, they have begun a Gun Sense Voter campaign, asking members to sign a pledge to vote for candidates that support policies that will reduce gun violence, like comprehensive background checks and child access prevention laws.

“Congress has done nothing to reduce gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary almost one-and-a-half years ago, and that is shameful,” Watts said. Moms Demand Action intends to change that by signing up 1 million voters who commit to voting for candidates with gun sense. If the recent victories of Moms Demand with major U.S. corporations are any indication, moms may be fighting an uphill battle, but they have a wind at their back and they’ve already demonstrated that a powerful demographic can harness their voices to make tremendous changes.

For more information on Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and how you can get involved, click on the “Join Us” link at www.momsdemandaction.org or www.everytown.org, or contact the San Antonio Ambassador for Moms Demand Action, Angela Rabke at angela_rabke@yahoo.com.

*Featured/top image: San Antonio Moms Demand Action members stand with San Antonio Police Chief William McManus at their Gathering for Gun Sense in October 2013.  Courtesy photo.

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Keep Students Safe, Keep Guns off Campus

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Jamie Addams

Jamie Addams is the Texas Chapter Leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She is a full-time volunteer, San Antonio resident, and mother of three.