As Extremists Plan To Rally In Virginia, Activists Are Changing America’s Deadly Gun Culture — & Winning

Photo: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty.
On Monday, self-proclaimed militia groups — some from Virginia and many more from outside of Virginia — are rallying in a last-ditch attempt to intimidate lawmakers into ignoring the will of their constituents, who elected them to pass stronger gun laws. 
Spoiler alert: they’ll fail.
Don’t be fooled into believing this protest will be a gathering of sportsmen and gun enthusiasts. This rally is being organized by people such as Philip Van Cleave, the head of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who told Sacha Baron Cohen he was in favor of arming toddlers. And, to make matters worse, some organizers are part of an extreme, fringe minority with ties to the same white supremacist groups that organized the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017.
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It must particularly gall extremists that gun sense is prevailing in Virginia, the NRA’s home turf. Everytown for Gun Safety spent $2.5 million to flip the Virginia statehouse, and Moms Demand Action volunteers in the commonwealth knocked tens of thousands of doors and made more than 100,000 calls. 
Racked by political and financial scandals, the NRA was outspent, outworked, and outvoted by our movement in rural districts and big cities.
Because the facts aren’t on their side, and the people aren’t on their side, gun extremists have decided to lie, threaten, and harass women and moms. When volunteers like me have the audacity to tweet about common-sense gun laws, they threaten rape and murder. When responsible gun owners express a desire to restore the responsibilities that go along with gun rights, they throw up an outrageous billboard with a bold-faced lie. When Virginia Moms Demand Action leaders speak out, they post their home addresses online.
None of this behavior changes the outcome of the November election. None of this will stop the surging tide of progress on gun violence prevention
Because these extremists are merely a vocal but small minority whose influence pales in comparison to the groundswell of Moms Demand Action volunteers, gun violence survivors, advocates, and allies across Virginia who elected gun sense champions to both the House of Delegates and the Senate. And extremism pales in comparison to the effectiveness of activism.
The tide has been turning against the NRA and other extremist groups for years. Gun violence kills 100 Americans per day, on average, and leaves hundreds more wounded. People from all walks of life, including gun owners, have said enough is enough, which is why our movement has made sweeping gains in red, blue, and purple states. In 2019 alone, 18 states and the District of Columbia passed common-sense gun safety legislation, and we helped defeat gun lobby-backed bills more than 90% of the time for the fifth year in a row. Put simply, we’re winning — and so far in 2020, we’ve kept on winning. 
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On January 13, the NRA’s lobby day, the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee advanced life-saving gun safety legislation to the Senate floor. On Thursday, just days before this hate-fueled rally, the Virginia Senate passed SB70, which closes deadly loopholes in Virginia’s background check system. Across the country, from coast to coast, state legislatures are introducing, debating, and passing more gun sense legislation than ever before.
The mothers and others, students, and survivors of gun violence who make up our grassroots movement are doing what many said couldn’t be done. We’re changing America’s deadly gun culture and, by rewriting our nation’s gun laws, changing the course of history. 
We’ll get back to the unglamourous, heavy lifting of activism that’s allowed us to stop their dangerous agenda. We’ve been doing it for years, and we won’t be deterred — not when the safety of our families is on the line. Text READY to 644-33 to join us in this life-saving work. 
Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the author of Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World. She is a mother of five. The views expressed here are her own.
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