Gun Extremists Have Been Coming After Women for Years — & We Aren't Scared

Photo: Courtesy of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Shannon Watts speaks at Moms Demand Action's annual Brooklyn Bridge March for Gun Sense in 2016.
Shannon Watts is a mom of five children and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She lives in Colorado. The views expressed here are her own.

During a campaign stop on Tuesday, Donald Trump suggested that "Second Amendment people" could potentially do something to stop his opponent, Hillary Clinton, from appointing Supreme Court nominees. Many people, myself included, interpreted Trump's comment as a call to violence and invitation to shoot Clinton.

Of course, it's reckless and irresponsible for a presidential nominee to suggest violence against his opponent. Of course, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what responsible gun owners believe in.

Yet, it didn't surprise me.

You see, as a leader of the nation's largest gun violence prevention organization, I know what it feels like to be a woman threatened for speaking out in favor of gun safety.

I founded Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America the day after the shooting at Sandy Hook School that killed six educators and 20 children. Since then, I have been threatened with violence and death. Pictures of me have been edited to appear that I have been shot. My daughter’s Facebook profile was once suspended because of extremists coming after me through her.
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As a leader of the nation's largest gun violence prevention organization, I know what it feels like to be a woman threatened for speaking out in favor of gun safety.

This isn't an aberration in the gun violence prevention movement. In fact, it's all too common.

As Moms Demand Action volunteers started gaining momentum, gun extremists have responded with threats and intimidation tactics. In Texas, gun extremists used female mannequins for target practice, filmed it and shared it widely on social media. In Kentucky just this year, armed men showed up to a membership meeting at a local library. It wasn't the only time armed extremists have crashed gun violence prevention events in the United States.

It is deeply unusual and terrifying for a presidential candidate to hint that his supporters should shoot his opponent. But to Moms Demand Action volunteers and me, this feels like another man telling us to quiet down while our safety — and the safety of our loved ones — remains at risk.
Photo: Courtesy of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Watts speaks at a Wear Orange event for gun safety last December.
We won't be silenced. And Hillary Clinton will not be bullied by Trump, who is in lockstep with the NRA and its dangerous "guns everywhere" agenda. While this is a new spin on trying to intimidate a female gun violence prevention champion, it will fail, just as it has failed with Moms Demand Action volunteers across the country.

It comes down to this: Our opponents are afraid someone will take away their guns. We are afraid our children will be shot and killed. You tell me who has more fight in them.

The fact is that women are at the forefront of the gun safety movement and that’s no coincidence — women are disproportionately affected by weak gun laws. We represent 50% of victims of mass shootings and are put at risk by lax laws that make it far too easy for abusive partners to access a gun. Every month, more than 50 American women are shot to death by a current or former boyfriend or husband.

We have to do better. I know that, and Hillary Clinton knows that too. That’s why we’ll continue to press for common sense solutions — like demanding a background check on every gun sale — that prove that we can respect the Second Amendment while making everyone safer.

Now more than ever, women have to speak out. The threat Trump issued against Hillary Clinton is a threat against every woman who has the gall to speak her mind publicly.

The gun lobby may be a Goliath, but when we stand together, we are too. I don’t expect that Donald Trump will stop inciting violence. I don’t expect that he will stop lying to the American public about Secretary Clinton’s views on gun safety. I also don’t expect him to be president.

Now more than ever, women have to speak out. The threat Trump issued against Hillary Clinton is a threat against every woman who has the gall to speak her mind publicly. It’s pathetic, disgusting, and something women have faced for too long when we dare to question societal norms.

More than 90 Americans
are shot to death every day and hundreds more are injured, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Gun violence is no laughing matter. We deserve better than a president who buys into solving problems with gun violence when far too many families know exactly where that road leads — to trauma and a chair left forever empty at their table.

We have to work together to elect leaders, like Secretary Clinton, who will act to prevent gun violence. It's our lives that are at risk. It's our voices that matter now.
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