Keeping Our Communities Safe, One Conversation at a Time
Rachael Marso (she/her) 11.16.2023
I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I now call Minnesota home. For about a year, I’ve been volunteering with Moms Demand Action. And in that time, I have become aware of and have tabled for Be SMART, a campaign that raises awareness about how secure gun storage can save children’s lives.
I joined Moms Demand Action because the amount of gun violence in the U.S. has always frustrated, enraged, and scared me. Too many people die as a result of gun violence. It makes me angry that we don’t have common-sense gun laws at a federal level. When my husband and I had our 18-month-old son, my desire to do something only grew as I started to imagine the ways in which gun violence could affect him.
Making a safer community for my friends, my family, and my son is what motivates me to volunteer, and it makes me feel good to be doing something and educating myself about gun safety. At the end of the day, that’s all we can really do: Advocate and make our voices heard.
I saw the meaning of this firsthand while tabling with Be SMART at an elementary school in Minnesota. We were tabling during the school’s “evaluation days,” a time when parents bring their children in to be evaluated before the upcoming school year. Because so many parents would be there, the local Moms Demand Action chapter decided to have a Be SMART table to provide education about gun safety and secure gun storage.
As the evening went on, I had a lot of positive conversations while tabling, including with several people who told me they were gun owners and confirmed that they securely store their firearms. I also talked to a gun owner who indicated that some of his firearms weren’t securely stored. He was willing to connect with me and took away information I gave him on secure storage and a safe lock that he could use to store his guns more securely.
I had been volunteering for about an hour at the event when a mom and daughter passed by. The mom stopped to read through our poster and asked what it was about. After I explained about Be SMART, she responded that they didn’t need to worry about this because they didn’t have guns in their home.
Her daughter spoke up at that point and said that her father had guns at his house for hunting. Her mom seemed surprised and stressed as she walked away. Ten minutes later, she came back to the table without her daughter. She told me that her daughter’s father was not legally supposed to have guns—and that it wasn’t the first time he’d had guns when he wasn’t supposed to.
I could sense the mom’s stress, and I felt like I wanted to help her in any way I could. Although I couldn’t do much as a volunteer to directly intervene, I directed her to alert the authorities and encouraged her to talk with her daughter’s teacher, who also advised her to alert the police. I also gave the mom our one-pager “Talking to Your Children About Guns” to review with her daughter so she would be more prepared if she unexpectedly came into contact with a gun at her father’s house.
Tabling at that elementary school made me realize that just having a presence in our community as we spread our message is important. In the particular case of the mother and daughter, our presence helped initiate a conversation that might not have happened otherwise.
Advocating for gun safety isn’t necessarily something people think about every day, but as my conversation with this mother and daughter showed, it’s something that can end up directly—and unexpectedly—affecting you.
Finding your local chapter of Moms Demand Action and attending a meeting is a great way to start engaging with your community and working to make it a safer place. Together, we can keep each other informed and safe, and make sure our elected representatives know who we are and what we stand for.
Every day, more than 120 people in the United States are killed with guns, twice as many are shot and wounded and countless others are impacted by acts of gun violence.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death. A yearly average was developed using four years of the most recent available data: 2018 to 2021.