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. For the 10-year anniversary of Moms Demand Action, we asked some of our volunteers why they got involved and what inspires them to keep going.
Moms Are the Most Fearless, Dedicated, Loving People I Know
Courtney Spriggs, she/her/hers
GA Local Group ManagerDawsonville, GA
The inaction after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, inspired me to get involved in the gun violence prevention movement. When I first got involved five years ago, local and state leaders viewed us as “fringe”—loud moms yelling into a void who would never be heard. At the time, living in rural North Georgia, our volunteers were apprehensive about even wearing their shirts or a button in public.
I helped start the Forsyth County, Georgia group as a local group lead, then served as Georgia chapter leader for nearly three years, where we successfully pushed for the first hearing of the Pediatric Safe Storage Act and we helped numerous Gun Sense Candidates get elected, including Senators Ossoff and Warnock. I’m proud of our work honoring Georgia’s many gun violence survivors and the relationships we’ve built with community partners in communities disproportionately affected by gun violence.
I remain inspired by our fearless gun-sense leaders: Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Stephanie Stone, Sharmaine Brown, and Julvonnia McDowell, who have all experienced the trauma of having a child taken by gun violence. I continue to be rewarded by this work, especially when survivors feel heard and volunteers find their voice and confidence. The people I volunteer with are my people, and I love them. The volunteers who have survived the worst somehow have the strength to lift others up, and when they don’t, they are held close.
Now, Moms Demand Action is known as “the boots on the ground” for gun safety legislation, education, and electing Gun Sense Candidates. By showing up, speaking up, and building community relationships across the state, we have proven that we are fierce changemakers who won’t stop until our communities and children are safe from gun violence. This is hard work, but our Moms are the most fearless, dedicated, and loving people I know. We can’t wait to show you what’s coming in the next 10 years of Moms Demand Action.
State Representative Jennifer Boylan, she/her/hers
Former Rhode Island Chapter Leader and Rhode Island Legislative and Elections LeadRhode Island
The loneliness and despair I felt in the days and weeks after Sandy Hook made me feel hopeless. But when I joined Moms Demand Action at the very beginning of January 2013, connecting with a posse of like-minded people buoyed me and gave me the confidence to go all-in as a leader.
We were small and unheard of. I constantly had to explain who and what Moms Demand Action was. As we grew in numbers and we consistently showed up at the Rhode Island state house, we eventually gained a Gun Sense majority in both chambers, and we finally began passing gun safety laws.
The movement has changed so much in the past decade. Gun safety is now a winning issue in much of our state. Here in Rhode Island, we have several Moms-turned-lawmakers, including me (!), a first-year lawmaker in the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
Passing our first gun safety bill in Rhode Island was one of my proudest moments in this work: It took over 3 years to pass the Protect Rhode Island Families Act in 2017, and the gun lobby fought us every step of the way. And since 2017, we’ve passed 9 gun safety bills.
As both a former Moms Demand Action volunteer and now a Gun Sense lawmaker, I remain inspired in this work and in this movement by gun violence survivors. I see them honor lost loved ones with action in the community and on social media, and they motivate me to keep going. I look up to leaders in our movement like Shannon Watts and Lucy McBath, Everytown Survivor Fellow Diana Garlington, and former Rhode Island State Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell.
Even though I am no longer a volunteer, I remain committed to gun violence prevention work: I have introduced 4 gun safety bills that I crafted on my own, and I could not have done that without all that I learned from being a Moms Demand Action leader. Thank you, Moms!
I Won’t Stop Until Things Are Safer for My Kids and All Kids
Jeni Olson, she/her/hers
Bexar County Moms Demand Action & State Data Lead for TexasSan Antonio, Texas
Over the years, I had taken various gun violence prevention actions—from mailing letters to my representatives after Columbine to online actions once I had email—but when Trump was elected, I knew I had to get more involved and looked for something that put boots on the ground.
And that’s when I found Moms Demand Action.
When I joined six years ago, this work was still incredibly contentious in Texas, and Moms Demand Action events usually had guys with long guns protesting nearby. We were called “gun grabbers”, and wearing your red shirt around meant you needed to be ready for anything.
So, if gun safety was still the third rail of politics when I first began this work, imagine my surprise now that Gun Sense Candidates want our endorsement! Now when we show up to events, candidates and elected officials ask for pictures of us in our red shirts. And Moms Demand volunteers are even invited to participate on panels and speak at community events.
Even though we haven’t had many wins on the state legislative level in Texas, we are building strong coalitions: We have organized and strategized, and we are winning in the way we have engaged volunteers and partnered with violence interrupters and community leaders.
And most importantly, when I joined Moms Demand Action, I found my people. I had moved to Texas a few years before I joined and hadn’t really found my friend group yet. But through Moms Demand Action volunteering, I’ve made some of my very best friends, near and far, through a shared outlook that we don’t have to live like this, and we can bring about change.
And I won’t stop until things are safer for my kids and all kids.
My daughter is a first-grade teacher. The saddest and most frustrating thing is when she told me that she realized she had done active shooter drills her entire school life, from K-12, and now she is the one hiding students. We let her and generations of young people go to school under the constant threat of gun violence, and haven’t fixed things. If anything, things have gotten worse.
So I remain inspired to continue my work in the gun violence prevention movement because of my kids. They are grown now, but I want the world they live in to be safe. I want them to be able to drive around, go to the mall, concerts, the grocery store, festivals, work, or the movies without fear of being shot. And I want that for their kids and all kids.
Looking Into the Eyes of Victims to Connect
Christine Ilewski, she/her/hers
Everytown Survivor Fellow 2022–24Alton, IL
My father took his own life with a gun he owned in 1982 when I was 20. And then in 2009, after my close friend, Father Larry Rosebaugh’s life was taken by gun violence, my world completely shifted. Larry had devoted his life to social justice, and I knew I had to take action.
I started marching with and showing up at St. Louis regional and national events since the inception of Moms Demand Action. Then, I started painting portraits of children lost to gun violence, which is when Faces Not Forgotten (FNF) was born.
At least 11 children aged 0-19 are killed by gun violence DAILY, and almost half of these children are Black.
We use visual storytelling in the lineage of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, and these portraits allow people to look into the eyes of these young victims and connect. Our work bridges the message into compassion.
Today, we have completed over 300 portraits of children killed by gun violence to give comfort to their grieving families and then exhibit the Faces Not Forgotten Quilts from 19 states to raise awareness of this horrific loss in the hopes of igniting change. We also will partner with Enough! Plays to End Gun Violence for FNF Quilt exhibits November 6th, 2023 at their national young playwright readings in Chicago, NYC, Florida and DC.
As mass shootings and school shootings have accelerated in the past 10 years, the public is also becoming more aware of the growing public health crisis of daily gun violence and the work of Moms Demand Action simultaneously.
Working with Moms Demand Action throughout the last decade, I’ve grown close to both Christine Peters and Cindy McMullan, who started the Metro East Moms Demand Action group in 2013. They always ask Faces Not Forgotten to join them at their events so that we can honor the victims and grow the mission by engaging the public in personal stories that create compassion and encourage them to get involved.
One thing has remained clear throughout my time with Moms Demand Action: Don’t underestimate the power of social justice art projects that can help you engage the public and grow empathy among people who have not yet had a personal loss to gun violence.
There Is a Light at the End of the Tunnel
Leslie Anne Washington, she/her/hers
State Legislative Lead and National Trainer Senior Survivor FellowCape Girardeau, MO
I joined the gun violence prevention movement because I am a survivor of domestic and firearm violence, and I was sick and tired of continued senseless gun violence.
Since joining the gun violence prevention movement, I’ve seen more communication from President Biden about gun violence and mass shootings and more volunteers across the country.
Moms Demand Action and this movement was always very comfortable, supportive, and welcoming, especially as I was becoming a state legislative lead for Missouri and sharing my experience with firearms and domestic violence. I’m so proud of my work in this movement, especially speaking at a BIPOC Communities conference in St. Louis.
I continue to be inspired by my friends in this movement: I share a special bond with my Missouri Moms family: Kristen Bowen, Cheryl Stumbo, and Lynda Stewart. And I’m inspired by others in this movement—like Brenda Moss and Shannon Watts—to continue telling my story and sharing my experience so that anyone can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
There’s a Place for You in This Movement
Volunteers like Courtney, State Representative Jennifer Boylan, Jeni, Christine and Leslie have been making an impact in their communities for 10 years. No matter where you live or what your skillset is, there’s a place for you in this movement.
Join us for the next 10 by texting DECADE to 644-33!