It still feels raw. We all are sharing in the grief and anger about the senseless murder of 19 children and two teachers at a Texas elementary school –at the hands of a madman who was practically a child himself. A person, who upon his recent 18th birthday, was able to purchase the guns he allegedly used in the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Many of us are left asking–how? Why? And, what can we do– not only to help support the families in Texas, but also to demand change in the laws that allow people like the shooter to get ahold of powerful weapons designed for military use. It’s a problem that many of us know by now goes beyond mental health. It’s also a gun problem.
We recently connected with Wendy Malloy, the co-leader of the Moms Demand Action Florida chapter of moms, to learn more about how families in Tampa Bay can involved in the fight for common sense change so no other family has to endure the unimaginable heartbreak of losing a child to gun violence. And so no child has to go to school in fear for their lives.
For those who may not be familiar with Moms Demand Action, tell us more about the organization and its mission.
MALLOY: Moms Demand Action started in 2012, the day after the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators. Our founder, Shannon Watts, started a Facebook page to begin a conversation about solutions to the country’s gun violence epidemic.
Now, almost 10 years later, we have 8 million supporters nationwide. We have a chapter in every state and a presence in every state house. We work on several fronts:
- Advocate common sense gun laws at the local, state, and national level
- Work to elect Gun Sense Candidates
- Support gun violence survivors with the Everytown Survivors Network
- Educate the public about secure firearm storage with our Be SMART program
- Support and partner with community violence intervention programs (such as Safe & Sound Hillsborough and Rise Up for Peace) & more
How has the most recent tragedy in Uvalde, Texas changed the messaging from Moms Demand Action?
MALLOY: Our message remains the same: Common sense gun laws save lives. If more guns made people safer, the US would be the safest nation on the planet. Instead, 110 people every single day die by guns. And most shocking and enraging: Gun violence is the No. 1 cause of death for American children and teenagers.
Our hearts are broken for the families and loved ones of victims in Buffalo and Uvalde, and the 110 people killed by guns every day in America. We’re holding them close as we work to honor their lives with action.
How can families get involved with the local chapter and what can we expect to do?
MALLOY: There are two active Moms groups in the Bay area – one in Tampa and one in St. Pete. There are several ways to connect:
We also have several events coming up in the next two weeks:
Welcome to Moms: We’re hosting two statewide virtual calls to welcome the thousands of new Florida volunteers joining our chapter:
- June 1, 8 pm ET: RSVP here
- June 8, 8 pm ET: RSVP here
- Wear Orange: June 3-5, with events and skyline lightings all over the Bay area. Text ORANGE to 644-33 for details.
- Summer Series: Spend 20 minutes a week this summer taking various actions to prevent gun violence. Text SUMMER to 644-33 and get connected.
Are there any local marches planned in the near future?
On Sunday, June 5, Florida Moms are hosting a CPTED Summit – a workshop for organizations interested in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. RSVP here.
How can families best contact their representatives to demand change (do you have a form that’s pre-filled?)?
MALLOY: We take a strategic approach to legislative action, with rapid-response, detailed guidance and messaging to our volunteers and to the public.
Right now, federal action means contacting Senators Rubio and Scott to demand they back up their thoughts and prayers with meaningful action on background checks, red flag laws, and confirmation of nominee Steve Dettlebach as head of ATF.
It’s incredibly frustrating for so many families who have seen this news cycle repeat itself without any real change. What else can we do?
MALLOY: I share your frustration, believe me – we all want meaningful change at the federal level. But it’s important to know that the gun violence prevention movement is absolutely making progress across the US, state by state, school board by school board, city council by city council.
Here are just two examples of our wins in Florida – just in the past few months:
- The Hillsborough County Tax Collector shares gun violence prevention info and stats on digital screens in all eight offices across our region, serving 1.5 million Floridians every year. And every concealed permit applicant (2,400 last year) goes home with Be SMART info about secure firearm storage.
- Duval County Schools passed a Moms-led resolution to send Be SMART materials home with every student (130,000 countywide) at the start of the school year.
Are there ways local families can support the families in Texas and Buffalo, and other mass shootings in our country?
- Donate blood. More than 200 people are shot every day in the US. Gunshot victims are 5 times more likely to require blood transfusions and require 10 times more blood than other serious injuries.
- The Texas Tribune has put together resources for helping Uvalde families.
- Here’s how to help families in Buffalo.
As a member of Moms Demand Action, you have been part of this fight for quite awhile. How are you feeling right now?
MALLOY: Heartbroken that two more American communities are experiencing the devastation and trauma so many have suffered.
Furious that so many elected officials have chosen blood money from the gun lobby over the lives of their constituents – little children watching a Disney movie in the last week of school, grocery shoppers on a spring afternoon … and the list goes on.
Determined that this time, we will NOT let the gun lobby and its lackeys in Congress get away with hollow thoughts and prayers. We demand action on common sense laws that save lives.
What else do you want our readers to know?
MALLOY: Thousands of new volunteers have joined Florida Moms this week, and we’re ready to put them to work. Join us: Text ACT to 644-33.