Natasha Marcus wanted to do more than send postcards about gun violence to her North Carolina state senator. Nicole Clowney wanted to keep her students safe after the Arkansas legislature passed a guns on campus bill. Linda Harriott-Gathright wanted to protect her community from New Hampshire’s deadly background check loophole.
Now, all three women are joining their state legislatures. They’re part of a group of more than 1,000 candidates across the country who ran and won on gun safety in 2018, which includes at least 16 Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America volunteer leaders elected to office.
These wins didn’t happen overnight — they happened because of the ground game we’ve been building since the day after the Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012 to demand stronger gun laws.
This year, the gun violence prevention movement outspent the NRA. But we out-hustled them, too. Moms Demand Action volunteers worked with partners to register 100,000 new voters. And we had 1.2 million conversations with voters about gun sense candidates by going door to door and making phone calls. It’s because of that hard work that winning candidate after candidate has thanked Moms Demand Action volunteers during their acceptance speeches and in interviews.
I’ve yet to see any photos this election cycle of NRA members canvassing or celebrating with winning candidates. And there’s a reason for that. This cycle, we went head-to-head with the NRA in 43 races (meaning we both endorsed candidates): gun safety candidates won 33 races, the NRA won nine races and 1 has yet to be called.
Over the past six years, Moms Demand Action volunteers learned how to be community organizers. They’ve shown up in red and blue states alike. They’ve helped to pass good gun laws, including laws to disarm domestic abusers in 28 states, and defeated thousands of bad bills. When Moms Demand Action volunteers show up in their red shirts, lawmakers listen.
It’s no wonder that so many of our volunteers realized they wanted to move from shaping policy to actually making it. With that in mind, we created a training program for volunteers who wanted to run for office, providing them with expertise and tools to help them win.
Exit polling is still being parsed, but one thing is clear: In an election where women voters were crucial in swaying the balance of power, gun violence prevention was a priority issue for women from all walks of life. The so-called enthusiasm gap has flipped, with single-issue gun safety voters now outnumbering those who oppose common-sense gun legislation two-to-one overall and five-to-one among suburban women.
Suburban women were key to Lucy McBath’s victory, a survivor of gun violence who joined Moms Demand Action just months after her son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed at a Florida gas station over loud music. She started out as a Moms Demand Action volunteer, eventually becoming Faith and Outreach Leader for Everytown. Now, Lucy is headed to Congress to represent Georgia's sixth district.
Every Moms Demand Action volunteer gets involved for his or her own reason -- a lockdown drill, a shooting tragedy, a gun suicide. For so many of us, gun safety is the most important issue when we go to the polls because it’s about keeping our children safe. And when too many of our lawmakers failed to take action, we resolved to replace them with leaders who would – even if it meant running for office ourselves.
I’m proud to say that’s exactly what we’ve done. Now it’s time for Congress and the new gun sense majority nationwide to take swift and decisive action to keep guns out of the wrong hands, protect kids and communities, disarm domestic abusers, combat daily gun violence and hold the gun industry accountable for its role in our national crisis.
The NRA’s A-rating used to be a badge of honor. On Election Day, it was a scarlet letter. When it comes to ending gun violence, the 2018 midterms signaled the start of a new world order. Gun violence isn’t a right-or-left issue - it’s a life-or-death issue. Lawmakers can’t win without winning the votes of women. And we’re voting - and running - on gun safety.
Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and a mom of five. She lives in Colorado.