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2023 Year in Review Highlights

2023 was a power-building year for the gun violence prevention movement and, in the wake of tragedy, we forged new paths in our fight to keep our families and communities safe. 

The Virginia elections are always considered a bellwether that sets the tone for federal elections the following year, and the 2023 cycle was no different. The races Everytown strategically focused on generated crystal-clear contrasts between candidates when it came to gun safety policies and abortion rights — the issues that also matter most to the voters who will decide the 2024 elections. And our hard work paid off: 

  • Our gun sense candidates and Moms Demand Action volunteers won key victories up and down the ballot, flipping the House of Delegates and ensuring a gun sense majority in the Virginia legislature
  • And incredibly, Moms Demand Action volunteers now make up nearly 20 percent of the Virginia House Democratic caucus. 

As Moms Demand Action embarked on our 10th year of advocacy, we welcomed more volunteers and supporters to our movement than ever before and ensured our chapter leadership includes the people who are most impacted by this crisis: survivors of gun violence and Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

Our movement is larger and more diverse than ever before, and we continue to show Americans from all walks of life that we can make life-saving progress when we work together. 

We’re now stronger than ever, and we’re ready to write the next chapter of our story together. Read more about the progress we made this year—and what we’re looking forward to in 2024.

Celebrating 10 Years of Moms Demand Action

Since our founding in 2012, Moms Demand Action has pushed back against the gun lobby and fought for common-sense laws and policies to make our communities safer. Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers across the country, we have been able to achieve unprecedented victories against the gun lobby — at the ballot box, in state legislatures, on school boards, and in corporate boardrooms across America. With nearly 10 million supporters in every state and Washington, D.C., our movement has never been stronger.

As Moms Demand Action kicked off its 10th year of advocacy alongside our network of Students Demand Action chapters, we ushered in a new era for our movement. In January, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts announced she was stepping back from her leadership role and passing the torch to our first-ever executive director, Angela Ferrell-Zabala

Shannon Watts (right) passes the torch to Angela Ferrell-Zabala at Gun Sense University.

We know Angela is the perfect person to help write the next chapter in the story of Moms Demand Action, and she brings a wealth of experience—as well as fierce positivity and indefatigable hope—to her new role. Angela’s lived experiences as a Black queer woman, a mother of four, and a person of faith all inform her advocacy, and she is leading our tens of thousands of Moms Demand Action volunteers into the next decade of our work with an intersectional and inclusive focus. For Angela, making sure our movement is reflective of the Black communities and other communities of color who are most impacted by gun violence is paramount. As she often says, referencing a phrase that began with disability justice advocates, “There should be nothing about us without us.”

Gun Sense University

There was no better place to celebrate all of our progress and usher in this new era of Moms Demand Action than at our tenth annual Gun Sense University in Chicago, where thousands of volunteers and gun violence survivors gathered for a face-to-face weekend of programming, training, and community building. This year, more leaders of color and survivor leaders attended GSU than ever before, reflecting our ongoing work to build a more diverse and inclusive community.

GSU attendees were joined by some incredible guests. Vice President Harris sat down with Angela and Emmy-nominated actor and Everytown Creative Council member Jason George for a sweeping conversation about the power of the gun safety movement and where we’re going together. The next day, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and other state gun sense leaders joined volunteers on stage to sign the Firearm Industry Responsibility Act into law and celebrate the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the state’s assault weapons ban, which was passed in the wake of the tragic shooting in Highland Park.

From left to right: Actor Jason George, Angela Ferrell-Zabala, and Vice President Kamala Harris at a Gun Sense University panel discussion.

We also presented our annual Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year awards at GSU to the federal, state, and local gun sense champions who helped us make progress in 2023: 

  • Representative Steven Horsford of Nevada was recognized with Everytown’s Federal Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year Award. 
  • Governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tim Walz of Minnesota, and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois were recognized with Everytown’s State Gun Sense Lawmakers of the Year Award.  
  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns Co-Chair Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mount Vernon, New York, was recognized with Everytown’s Local Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year Award. 
  • All of Moms Demand Action’s volunteers-turned-lawmakers in Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota were presented with our Demand a Seat Lawmakers of the Year Award.

National Safer Communities Summit

On the anniversary of the signing of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, President Biden spoke at the National Safer Communities Summit in Hartford, Connecticut, which was hosted by Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and GIFFORDS. In his remarks, President Biden highlighted the life-saving progress we’ve made in just the law’s first year. The full-day summit also included keynote addresses from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Gun Safety in the States

In 2023, state legislatures across the country passed a record-breaking 130 gun safety policies. State lawmakers also blocked 95 percent of the gun lobby’s agenda, including hundreds of attempts by the gun lobby to weaken gun laws, and allocated $693 million to gun violence prevention efforts. And despite the chaos unleashed by last year’s dangerous ruling by the Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, we successfully supported states as they passed stronger gun safety laws in response.

Some Key State Victories

  • Michigan

    • Help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers;
    • Ensure that those purchasing guns must first pass a background check;
    • Keep guns away from people showing warning signs of harming themselves or others;
    • And make it harder for kids to get their hands on a gun in the home by requiring the secure storage of firearms.
  • California

    Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the historic Gun Violence Prevention and School Safety Act into law. This landmark legislation will create $160 million annually to fund gun violence intervention and prevention programs by imposing a modest tax on the gun industry. It will fund street-level violence intervention programs, efforts to remove guns from prohibited persons, school safety efforts, and more.  

    The state is now the first to provide sustainable, long-term funding for transformative gun violence prevention and intervention services in schools, on streets, and in communities all across California

  • Massachusetts

    Massachusetts’ House of Representatives passed comprehensive gun safety legislation which ensures that people who carry guns in public receive rigorous safety training, updates Massachusetts’s assault weapons prohibition to keep more dangerous military-style semiautomatic weapons out of Massachusetts, prohibits ghost guns, explores innovative and emerging gun safety technologies, and more. The bill also keeps guns out of sensitive public spaces including schools, polling places, and government buildings in response to the Supreme Court decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, which allowed more people to carry guns in public in Massachusetts.

  • New York

    New York passed legislation to help victims and survivors of crime and their families to receive the economic support they need by expanding eligibility and removing administrative obstacles that can make it challenging to receive support. Moms Demand Action volunteers and supporters worked tirelessly over several legislative sessions to make this happen.

    In the aftermath of gun violence, survivors and families require physical, emotional, and financial support. However, several eligibility requirements make receiving economic support inaccessible for many communities of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, working-class people, people with health conditions or physical impairments, and immigrants. Fair access to survivor compensation is a social equity issue, impacting Black men and LGBTQIA+ victims and survivors. Making compensation funds for survivors and their families more accessible is in the best interest of building stronger, safer communities across New York.

Closing the Online and Gun Show Loopholes

In September, ATF announced a proposed rule to close the online and gun show loopholes, moving the nation closer to background checks on all gun sales. This rule would significantly reduce no-background check gun sales, keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people, and prevent tragedies. The ATF-proposed rule was a monumental victory made possible by a decade of strong advocacy from Everytown and Moms Demand Action volunteers.

Once the proposed rule was announced, our grassroots movement came together across the country to raise our voices and strengthen our background check system to save lives. Americans had 90 days to comment in favor or against the proposed rule, and we wanted to make sure ATF knew how important following through on this rule was.

During the comment period, Everytown supporters submitted over 238,000 comments in favor of the rule.

Empowering Young Leaders

We continued to hold the gun industry accountable in the court of law and the court of public opinion in 2023, with Students Demand Action volunteers leading the way on our grassroots work. From confronting industry executives at their annual trade show to organizing divestment campaigns on college campuses across the country, young leaders continually reminded the gun industry that there is a human cost to their greed—and we refuse to pay the price with our lives.

  • SHOT Show

    In January, the gun industry’s trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), kicked off its annual SHOT Show convention in Las Vegas just two miles from the site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. In response, Students Demand Action unveiled a series of comprehensive demands for the firearms industry to adopt responsible business practices — and volunteers brought these demands directly to the industry during the show. As members of the industry arrived in Las Vegas, they were greeted by billboards showing that guns are the number one killer of children and teens, which we placed all along the route from the airport to their hotels. Everytown Support Fund and Students Demand Action ran digital ads targeted to the Las Vegas area and held a demonstration outside of the convention to ensure industry members couldn’t look away from this crisis. Additionally, to help the public and policymakers understand the industry’s role in fueling gun violence, Everytown Support Fund released a groundbreaking new report exposing the role NSSF plays as a front group for the nation’s firearms industry at every level of the supply chain.

  • Smith & Wesson

    In October, the nation’s largest gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, relocated its headquarters to Maryville, Tennessee, to avoid stricter gun laws in its former home state of Massachusetts. News of the move followed the mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, which left three children and three adults dead. In response, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action mobilized to make it clear that Smith & Wesson isn’t welcome in Tennessee, either. Volunteers joined faith leaders and community members to hold a press conference near the grand opening of Smith & Wesson’s new offices and flew a plane with a banner showing the true cost of gun violence over their opening day party.

  • Young Black Changemakers Summit

    Black and Latinx youth disproportionately experience gun violence, and we can’t address this crisis without acknowledging the impacts of systemic racism, white supremacy, and historic disinvestment in communities of color. To deepen our work at this intersection, Students Demand Action hosted a first-of-its-kind summit to bring young Black changemakers together.

  • Demand a Seat: Students Edition

    The inaugural Demand a Seat: Students Edition program brought 40 participants between the ages of 16 and 25 to Denver for a weekend of learning and leadership building. These young leaders from across the country gained an understanding of how to run for office and work on political campaigns by hearing from seasoned political pros and young lawmakers alike. They took a deep dive into the ins and outs of building winning campaigns and worked together to demonstrate the political power of young voters in the fight to end gun violence. Most of all, Demand a Seat: Students Edition showed young people that they aren’t the leaders of tomorrow, they’re the leaders of today—and their voices are powerful.

Investing in Communities

The Everytown Community Safety Fund, launched in 2019, is the largest national initiative solely dedicated to fueling the life-saving work of CVI organizations in cities nationwide. We are committed to distributing $25 million through 2026 to provide grantee organizations across the country with financial support as well as peer networking and capacity-building opportunities. And since the fund’s launch, we have granted over $11 million in support of 119 CVI organizations implementing promising strategies like street outreach, hospital-based violence interventions, and youth development and counseling in more than 68 American cities. 

In September, the fund announced its largest grant offering to date, allocating $2.35 million to 35 CVI organizations working in cities across the country. In 2024, the Community Safety Fund will further expand its grant and capacity-building offerings to support more CVI programs across the country and sustain their life-saving work.

White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

In 2023, the Biden-Harris Administration cemented its status as the strongest gun safety administration in history. In September, the Biden-Harris Administration unveiled a first-of-its-kind, innovative Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will focus on advancing the administration’s ambitious gun violence prevention agenda. The new office is led by former Everytown senior director of federal government affairs, Rob Wilcox, and the former executive director of the Community Justice Action Fund, Greg Jackson. The creation of a centralized office in the White House to tackle gun violence shows just how far we’ve come on this issue from the highest levels of government.

Making an Impact at the Nation’s Highest Court

We took our fight for gun safety all the way to the Supreme Court this year to demand that justices put the lives of women and families above the interests of the gun industry in a pivotal case that will determine whether domestic abusers will be allowed to arm themselves. 

The Rahimi case first came to national attention in February, when a panel of extreme judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit struck down a 30-year-old federal law prohibiting people subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns. The Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of defendant Zackey Rahimi, despite his extensive history of domestic violence and dangerous behavior with guns.

In response to this extreme and deadly decision, Everytown Law urged the Supreme Court to take up the case and filed an amicus brief urging the Court to reverse the Fifth Circuit’s decision and side with victims and survivors of domestic violence. When it came time for justices to hear oral arguments on November 7, Everytown Law, in coordination with Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, spearheaded a rally outside of the Supreme Court that was attended by hundreds of advocates and partner organizations. 

Now, all eyes are on the Court as we await its decision, which is expected in the spring or summer of 2024. But Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers across the country, many of whom are survivors of gun violence, are continuing to mobilize to make sure every American knows what’s at stake with this Supreme Court decision. And we’ll keep fighting to put the safety of women and families above the interests of the gun lobby.

Setting the Stage for the 2024 Election

Since 2017, hundreds of Moms Demand Action volunteer leaders have run for elected office and dozens have won seats—from town councils and school boards to Congress. In 2021, Everytown Victory Fund launched the Demand a Seat program to increase the number of volunteers running for office at every level of government. The program gives volunteers the tools, training, and mentorship they need to succeed. And since 2021, more than 750 volunteers, survivors of gun violence, and candidates have been accepted into the program and more than 250 volunteers have been elected to office.

Building on an incredibly strong 2022 midterm cycle, Demand a Seat continued with great success in 2023, training two cohorts of volunteers and survivors of gun violence, running candidate boot camps, and launching the first-ever Demand a Seat: Students Edition. This year alone, 162 Moms Demand Action volunteers ran for office in 28 states, with 96 winning their elections. That’s nearly four times the number who ran in previous off-year elections in 2021. And we’re bringing new leaders into the fold: of the Moms Demand Action volunteers who ran for office in 2023, 71 percent were non-incumbents.

Here are some more highlights from our volunteers who ran in 2023: 

  • 42 percent of total wins were city or county councils
  • 35 percent of total wins were school board races
  • 11 percent of total wins were state legislative seats in Virginia and New Jersey
  • 9 percent of total wins were mayoral races

Now, as all eyes turn to the 2024 elections, Everytown and its grassroots networks of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action are ready to make history yet again by sending the strongest gun safety administration ever back to the White House and sweeping gun sense champions to victory at every level of government, including lawmakers who got their start as volunteers in our movement.

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