My wife and I had the opportunity last night to meet Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action (MDA), an organization we are both members of.
MDA was founded by Shannon the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with the purpose of demanding action from state and federal legislators,,companies, and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms. The organization has quickly flourished into a leading force for gun violence prevention, with chapters in all 50 states and a powerful grassroots network of moms that has successfully effected change at the local, state and national level.
MDA believes that common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day. Whether the gun violence happens in urban Chicago, suburban Virginia, or rural Texas, we must act now on new and stronger gun laws and policies to protect our children.
MDA envisions a country where all children and families are safe from gun violence. Their nonpartisan grassroots movement has grown to include a chapter in every state across the country. They are educating, motivating, and mobilizing moms and families to take action that will result in stronger laws and policies to save lives.
After a brief update on what the organization has been up to, we then took part in a phone campaign related to a ballot initiative in the state of Maine.
An Act to Require Background Checks for Gun Sales, informally known as Maine Question 3, is a citizen-initiated referendum question that has qualified for the Maine November 8, 2016 statewide ballot. It seeks to require a background check for virtually all gun transfers in Maine, with some exceptions. As the Maine Legislature and Governor Paul LePage declined to enact the proposal as written, it will appear on the ballot along with elections for President of the United States, Maine’s two United States House seats, the Legislature, other statewide ballot questions, and various local elections.
While at first it seemed strange to be calling voters in Maine from Pennsylvania, I realized this is the kind of effort that is needed to get things done, to make change happen. There have been many examples in our history where people from multiple states rallied to support causes in other states.
It felt good to be taking action on something that we believe in and support. We are not alone in the belief that background checks should be required; the vast majority of Americans feel the same way.
A survey conducted by Yale researchers in January 2016 found that 77 percent of Americans favored universal background checks, while 53 percent favored stricter gun laws. The research team found that this disconnect may be explained by the fact that 41 percent of Americans thought that universal background checks were required by federal law for all gun purchases. Survey respondents who favored universal background checks and knew that they were not required by federal law were more likely to also favor stricter gun laws.
Federal law has required background checks for all gun sales by licensed dealers since the Brady Bill was signed into law in November of 1993. However, the law does not apply to private unlicensed dealers who may sell guns at gun shows, online, or in other private transactions. Because of these exceptions, background checks are only required for an estimated 40 percent of gun sales.
Common sense gun control laws are also on the ballots of three other states besides Maine – California, Nevada, and Washington. The hope is that if enough states pass laws requiring background checks on all gun sales, then such requirements have a much better chance of becoming a federal law.
While such a goal may take some time to be achieved, it is through the grassroots efforts of organizations like Moms Demand Action that such a goal is kept front and center in voters’ minds, increasing the likelihood that the goal will be accomplished.
I applaud the efforts of MDA, and thank them for allowing my wife and I to be part of the process. This is our third event with MDA; last year we participated in a Walk to End Gun Violence, and this past summer during the Democratic National Convention we collected pledges to end gun violence.