There are moments that just catch your breath. I just received an email from Everytown for Gun Safety, the umbrella organization that includes Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
I was sitting in my living room, reading the email, feet away from the spot where I first talked on the phone to our local Moms Demand Action lead, Michele Mueller, years ago. I’d talked to her about this impulse I had to do something. We talked about so many things—how scary it is for our kids to live in a country where children need to be trained to get themselves to safety if ever confronted by an active shooter. We talked about how surreal it was that companies like Kroger refused to ban open carry of firearms in their stores (and I ended up working as lead on that campaign locally for a bit). And she told me about upcoming meetings, upcoming lobby days in Columbus.
Over subsequent months, I met with other parents and grandparents—some of whom would never touch a firearm and some who owned them and made sure to store them safely—and we discovered there’s actually a vast middle ground on this issue, where common sense can reign.
My first trip to Columbus, I was nervous. I’d never gone to meet my representative to ask for anything, and there was a strange bill winding through, one that would expand concealed carry of firearms in a bunch of sensitive places, including some city properties and day cares. “Day cares?!” I remember repeating incredulously to staffers and state representatives.
I attended my first hearing and was shocked by how the dais of representatives emptied—as members of Moms, day care providers and police officers gave their testimony. All but one member of the committee left the dais. We knew all those who left supported the bill. They weren’t even willing to sit and listen to those with whom they disagreed.
When those in support had their turn to speak, suddenly the dais filled again.
That nearly empty dais stuck with me. It took so much gall to simply walk out of a room instead of listening to voters’ concerns. Of course, the bill became law.
Years on now, the tide is just starting to change, I hope, toward reason. Just recently Kroger finally changed its policy on open carry (along with a string of other stores including: Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Aldi, Meijer and Publix). In the wake of Dayton’s tragedy, the Ohio State Senate is considering legislation to require background checks on all gun sales and institute a Red Flag law for those likely to do harm to themselves or others.
I was prompted, in part, to run for city council here in Wyoming after—very briefly—our council used the aforementioned law to expand concealed carry on some municipal properties . It was rescinded within a month, because thankfully, our councilmembers did listen to the community’s outcry. But that moment galvanized me. It led me to run and eventually put me in a position on council when, after Parkland shootings, I was one of the people Wyoming high school student Rasleen Krupp reached out to asking what could be done. Even though municipalities in Ohio are limited in what we can do because cities must remain in accordance with state law, I did know who to have her call: my friends at Moms Demand Action.
With a bit of Moms’ help and a lot of student initiative, I then saw another wave of advocacy, driven by Rasleen, Wyoming students, and other students around the region, who led the student march in Cincinnati and likewise found their political voices.
This endorsement from Everytown garners me with use of a logo, that’s all. But it also is a signifier, after many years of advocacy, that leaders are popping up around the country who know how to come together to talk about issues that have been used as a wedge for too long.
There has been far, far too much heartbreak for so many families.
I have friends who’ve lost loved ones to gun violence. One of the strongest people I know is Pastor Jackie Jackson, a Wyoming resident who is one of the first on the scene in Cincinnati after incidents of gun violence. His work is harrowing, important, and far too necessary.
Gun violence touches all of us.
I have faith that reason will prevail, and that with work, we’ll continue finding ways to come together to prevent harm.
That Everytown for Gun Safety took an interest in our city council race and put its name behind mine is so deeply humbling, I, who write for a living, am at a loss for words.
Other than this: thank you, and #KeepGoing