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Ways You Can Take Action Against Gun Violence Today

Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children in America — enough is enough

Patty Lindley

Published on: June 07, 2024

Closeup of School Zone sign with crime scene tape wrapped around it

Of all the hurtful things befalling kids in childhood — which we can no longer justifiably call “the age of innocence” — from a skinned knee to the sting of friendship drama, being terrorized or murdered by gunfire at school shouldn’t even be within the realm of possibility.

Yet here we are again. This time, the gun violence against our kids took place right here in Seattle.

There can be no such thing as unspoiled childhood innocence in a country where firearms are the leading cause of death for youth in the United States. Every year, more than 21,000 children and teens are shot and killed or wounded and millions more are exposed to gun violence.

The tallying of gun-related statistics goes beyond the victims when you consider the devastating radial trauma of school shootings on survivors, witnesses and crisis responders. The Washington Post has tabulated the number of students who have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine shootings (that was in 1999, folks) — the number has risen to more than 370,000 students in 404 school shootings.

As parents and citizens, these senseless tragedies leave us reeling. We wonder what to do with the fear, the hopelessness, the anger, the outrage that overwhelm us.

Living in constant fear keeps us anxiously alert; outrage and anger galvanize righteous action — these are uncomfortable, unbearable feelings, but not without value when it comes to being protectors who must respond to calamity and threats to our children. But after too many such tragedies, the overwhelming Pandora’s box feeling that should concern us most is the hopelessness part. Right now, hopelessness is the enemy, because hopelessness can breed a particularly soul-draining paralysis.

To paraphrase a sentiment from “Game of Thrones,” “There is only one thing we say to death: ‘Not today.’” How about, “Never again”?

So, here’s what we have to do, moms and dads. We’re going to confront these emotions, this immobilizing fear, head on — because the threat to our children’s lives is scary-real. We’re going to follow some really good advice from a fellow Seattle parent: We’re going to keep our minds in the present and make a to-do list that will help us take action to secure a safer future — it can be short, it can be simple (and we’ve made a list below from which you can cherry-pick ideas that work for you and your family). We will start with one thing today, because, as she explains, “The act of physically doing something — attending a meeting, writing a letter, hosting a prayer group — helps chip away at the fear that threatens to take root in [your] heart. Because even something small can add to the slowly growing avalanche of change.”

Doing so, she goes on to say, will make a surprisingly big change in your own feelings of anxiety and helplessness.

17 ways to take action against gun violence today

We grieve, we condemn the repetitive cycle of gun deaths in America. Don’t let these strong emotions immobilize you into hopeless inaction: Make the time to do your research, ask questions, connect with others, use your voice, use your money, demand answers, decry inaction, wield your power to vote, raise a damn ruckus. Start today. Now would be good.

Demand answers — Find out what your school is doing to keep your child safe at school. Attend PTA meetings, contact your school leadership and superintendent to voice your concerns and share your ideas.

Educate yourself about the current research and policies related to America’s gun violence history and current spiraling crisis.

Write to your elected representatives — Represent, represent! Our elected officials at local, state and U.S. levels represent us and we represent our children. This handy tip sheet from the ACLU will help you craft a letter that packs a no-apologies punch.

Stay in the know — While you’re there boning up on your letter-writing skills, sign up to receive action alerts to stay informed on issues you care about.

Donate to help end gun violence Grassroots contributions to volunteer-driven orgs such as Moms Demand Action and Everytown fund the critical work of saving lives and creating a future free from gun violence. There are so many worthy organizations that can benefit from your financial support — here is a good starter list to consider.

Sign your name — Sandy Hook Promise maintains a list of current action petitions related to lifesaving gun legislation. Add your name to the MomsRising vow to hold elected leaders who are failing to protect our children accountable in future elections.

Spread the word — Start conversations about gun violence prevention and legislation efforts with friends and family. Learn how to debunk some of the gun lobby’s favorite talking points (*cough, myths*) for your next cocktail party friendly debate.

Gun legislation can only change if gun-responsible candidates are in office, so voting is vital! Sign up with Postcards to Voters to write and send reminder postcards to likely Democratic voters across the country, reminding them to get out there and vote, vote, vote! This is also a great way to involve family, friends and kids.

Encourage the teens in your life to register to vote. Some of the most effective gun responsibility advocates are teens.

Join and support an organization working to keep communities free of gun violence. A few rise to the top in Washington state, so acquaint yourself with their missions: Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, Washington CeaseFire, Washington State Firearm Tragedy Prevention Network.

Closer to home, join a parent-led, anti-gun-violence Facebook group in your school district, or hitch onto the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America FB group.

Go next-level and become an organizer in your community. Here’s where/how you can get started.

Make a school safety plan with your child — Work together to identify a trusted adult or two in your school community to whom your child can turn if they feel threatened at school. Make sure your child knows how to reach you (or another family member or friend) in case of a crisis during the school day.

If you are a gun owner, safeguard your children by using “triple safe” storage practices.

Check in with your kids — These are senseless, baffling, existentially terrifying realities, almost impossible to process as an adult. Remember that your little pitchers have big ears and are likely hearing about school shootings and gun violence from various sources. Here are some great suggestions for how to sensitively discuss such tragic events with your child.

Watch for the warning signs — These situations leave us all gutted by grief, and wondering, “How could this have been prevented?” Educate yourself about the signs that may indicate a teen you know could be suffering a mental health crisis.

Check in with yourself — Sitting with despairing emotions takes a heavy toll on your ability to cope effectively. Take the time to take care of yourself. A walk out in nature with your best little buddies will do wonders.

Hug your children with all your might. Our hearts are broken for families, students, teachers and communities gutted by this senseless violence.

Additional resources for taking action

  • Look up your congressional representatives, then contact them and ask them to support:
  • MomsRising is a grassroots organization that tackles the most critical issues facing women, mothers and families by educating and mobilizing the public. Sign petitions for a number of gun safety issues on the website.
  • Everytown for Gun Safety is the largest gun violence prevention organization in America; discover a wide variety of ways you can get involved in the fight today.
  • March for Our Lives — This courageous youth-led movement is dedicated to promoting civic engagement, education and direct action by youths to eliminate the epidemic of gun violence in America. Visit the website to discover volunteer opportunities and other actions to take to help advocate for gun policy change. Connect with your local chapter here.
  • Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. Explore ways you can connect and take action from home.
  • Brady Campaign is one of America’s oldest and boldest gun violence prevention groups. Among its many gun violence prevention initiatives is the motivating and comprehensive Brady Plan.
  • Students Demand Action — Is your child looking for a way to get involved in the fight to end gun violence? Encourage them to look into starting or joining a Students Demand Action group at their high school, college, or in the community.

Make your voice heard

  • Sandy Hook Promise is a national nonprofit organization founded and led by several family members whose loved ones were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012.
  • Alliance for Gun Responsibility — Based in Seattle, this organization works to end the gun violence crisis in our community and to promote a culture of gun ownership that balances rights with responsibilities. This guide is chock-full of facts and tips for how to talk about gun violence.
  • Giffords — Led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, this organization aims decades of political, legal and policy expertise at the fight for gun safety. Fill out the “Get involved and take action” form on the Giffords Action Network for more information about how to get involved in your local community. Or simply text “Universal” to 34131 to demand Congress legislates universal background checks.
  • Stand With Parkland is a national organization committed to advocating for practical public safety reforms focused on the safety of our children and staff at school, improved mental health support and responsible firearms ownership.

Resources for parents

Editor’s note: This article was first published in 2022 and was updated by associate editor Kari Hanson on June 7, 2024. May we never have to update it again.

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