2020: Year In Review
2020 brought the deadliest pandemic in a century, revealed the historic weakness of the outgoing administration, and brought millions to the streets to protest racial injustice. But through it all, the gun safety movement made extraordinary progress. The most tangible proof of our success is the victory of the strongest gun safety ticket in history, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who benefited from Everytown’s massive grassroots and financial support.
But the presidential race was just one chapter of Everytown’s 2020 story. The NRA is floundering, reckoning with plummeting revenue and rising legal bills—in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We supported state legislators who fought hard and passed common-sense gun laws, provided meaningful support to vital local gun violence intervention groups, and continued to educate the public about the importance of gun safety. We stood with racial justice advocates to demand police reform and we exposed how the pandemic has exacerbated domestic gun violence, gun suicide and unintentional shootings.
Through it all, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers worked tirelessly to save lives in their communities, fight for critical gun safety legislation, hold candidates accountable on the campaign trail and set new records for grassroots engagement in races up and down the ballot. And, across the country, Moms Demand Action volunteers ran for office themselves and won—in greater numbers than ever before—proving that our movement also serves as a political boot camp for the next generation of leaders.
Here’s a deeper look into what happened in 2020, and what’s ahead for the gun safety movement.
In 2020, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Victory Fund launched our most ambitious and grassroots-powered political program—spending tens of millions of dollars, our largest political program ever, and mobilizing a nationwide army of grassroots volunteers to send President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to the White House, all while electing gun sense candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and in down-ballot races from statehouse to school boards.
President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris ran on an expansive platform to reduce gun violence, framing it as the public health crisis it is. They made gun safety a central part of their campaigns from the very beginning—from virtual Zoom events, all the way to the Democratic National Convention stage.
In May, Vice President-elect Harris participated in Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action’s 12-part virtual series “Demanding Women: Quarantine Conversations About Gun Violence.” During her conversation with Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, Vice President-elect Harris reaffirmed her commitment to gun violence prevention, stating “We’re going to keep fighting, and when we fight, we win.” President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris also participated in Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund’s Presidential Gun Sense Candidate Membership Forum in Iowa in 2019, showing their commitment to gun safety from the earliest days of the campaign.
Everytown Victory Fund spent nearly $8 million on TV and digital ads, partnering with Priorities USA Action, to support President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris in battleground states like Arizona, and focusing on mobilization efforts among some of Everytown’s core constituencies: suburban women, Black and Latino voters, and young people. The paid media investments featured Spanish and English-language creative content, including ads that held President Trump accountable for failing to keep Americans safe from the dual health crises of gun violence and COVID-19, and for opposing bipartisan gun safety measures after benefiting from $31 million in political support from the NRA during the 2016 election.
In addition to serving as a surrogate for Women for Biden, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts acted as a Biden campaign surrogate throughout the election cycle. Watts joined other Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers, as well as gun violence survivors, at virtual Biden campaign events in battleground states across the country. At the same time, gun violence survivors, volunteers, and other Everytown surrogates and influencers participated in dozens of national and local events.
Electing New Gun Sense Candidates to the U.S. Senate
Everytown spent $10.6 million to support Democratic candidates running for the U.S. Senate, helping bring it closer to a gun sense majority.
Key victories include:
- In Colorado, Everytown Victory Fund spent $1.1 million on TV and digital ads to support Senator-elect John Hickenlooper against NRA-backed Sen. Cory Gardner.
- In Arizona, Everytown Victory Fund contributed $750,000 to Senate Majority PAC to support Senator Mark Kelly against NRA-backed Sen. Martha McSally.
We did it!
Just as 2021 began, Georgia voters rejected NRA-backed Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue, and elected Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate, creating a gun sense majority. The gun sense trifecta of White House, U.S. House and U.S. Senate clears the path for major progress and we will be there every step of the way.
Helping Secure the U.S. House of Representatives Gun Sense Majority
Everytown spent more than $7.3 million to elect Democratic candidates to the U.S. House in 2020, working in coordination with House Majority PAC, and spending significantly in congressional races in Georgia and Texas. Key victories include:
- Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund spent $3 million on TV and digital ads to support former Everytown employee and Moms Demand Action volunteer Rep. Lucy McBath against Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th congressional district.
- Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund spent $1.2 million on TV and digital ads, in partnership with House Majority PAC, to support Representative-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux against Rich McCormick in Georgia’s 7th congressional district—the only competitive seat to flip from Republican to Democrat this cycle.
- Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on digital ads to support Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher in Texas’ 7th congressional district.
Record Number of Moms Demand Action Volunteers Elected To Public Office
More than 100 Moms Demand Action volunteers ran for office up and down the ballot this year. In total, 43 Moms Demand Action volunteers won their races and will be sworn into office next year. These victories include former Everytown employee and Moms Demand Action volunteer Rep. Lucy McBath in Georgia’s 6th Congressional district; former Moms Demand Action volunteer Representative-elect Marie Newman in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional district, 34 volunteers who won races for state legislature in states like Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio, and more volunteers who won races for school board, city council, clerk of court, district attorney, and county board.
Gun Sense Candidate Distinction a Proven Winner
Everytown awarded over 3,000 candidates the Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate Distinction this election cycle, including candidates in 49 states and Washington D.C. Of the 2,300 gun sense candidates who ran during the general election, nearly 60% won their races. And of the 310 candidates to receive an endorsement from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, 55% won their races.
In order to receive the distinction, candidates had to complete a questionnaire, which focused on common-sense gun safety policies, to satisfaction. Candidates’ past votes on gun safety were also considered.
Gun Safety Took Center Stage at the Democratic National Convention
Gun safety took center stage at the Democratic National Convention, further cementing gun violence prevention as a kitchen-table issue in American politics. Gun violence prevention advocates, including Moms Demand Action volunteers DeAndra Dycus, Shenee Johnson, and Maria Wright, powerfully shared their stories during primetime DNC programming and Moms Demand Action volunteers could be seen throughout the virtual roll call. Additionally:
- DeAndra Dycus, a gun violence survivor and volunteer with the Indiana chapter of Moms Demand Action, was a featured speaker and shared her story on why she was supporting President-elect Biden. In 2014, DeAndra’s 13-year-old son, Dre, an honor student and star athlete, was shot and sustained major injuries at a birthday party.
- Shannon Watts moderated a DNC panel conversation between Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA); Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers; Symone Sanders, Senior Advisor to Joe Biden 2020; Alejandro Bedoya, soccer player with the Philadelphia Union and a member of the Everytown Athletic Council; and Reggie Moore, Director of the Office of Violence Prevention for the Milwaukee Health Department.
Moms Demand Action Volunteers Mobilized to Protect the Vote
This year, Everytown’s grassroots networks answered the call to assist with the nationwide poll worker shortage and help ensure safe and equitable access to the ballot through Democracy Demands Action, a large-scale, non-partisan effort that matched volunteers with key actions to take in their local communities. Hundreds of volunteers became poll workers, poll monitors, voter hotline volunteers, and joined a “Voter Support Squad” to provide voters with the resources they needed to stay in line to cast their ballot—including almost 10,000 cans of coffee distributed in partnership with La Colombe. In the weeks before the election, cultural influencers supported Democracy Demands Action by participating in an Instagram Takeover Series to engage Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers. Participants included Everytown Creative Council Chair Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Big Freedia, Laura Dern, Jason George, Ian Harding, Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, Justin Tranter, and Pete Wentz.
Polling and Voter Research Demonstrated Gun Safety Was a Winning Issue Across the Country
Everytown invested significantly in polling and voter research to guide its efforts this election cycle. Voter research found that gun safety-themed messages were among the most effective at moving voters to support President-elect Biden over President Trump, and messaging that coupled the dual crises of COVID-19 and gun violence was the second most effective overall. Messaging that highlighted how Republicans sided with the gun lobby were in the same range of effectiveness as messages that centered around issues like health care and Social Security and Medicare.
Exit polling conducted by Morning Consult found that the vast majority of Americans, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, want the next Congress and President-elect Biden to prioritize gun safety. Seven in ten voters agreed that gun violence is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed and that our nation’s gun laws should be stronger than they are now.
The pandemic could have caused widespread disruptions to our activism throughout 2020. Instead, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers seamlessly pivoted to digital advocacy, trading their usual rallies for virtual meetings that were often even bigger. With cutting-edge virtual organizing tools at their disposal, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers made more than 3.7 million calls and texts to voters in 2020.
Moms Demand Action volunteers were a constant presence on the campaign trail in their signature red t-shirts, supporting President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris in person and at virtual campaign events throughout the election cycle.
Our annual training conference in August, Gun Sense University, was bigger and better than ever (and fully virtual!), with more than 2,000 volunteers in attendance. First Lady-elect Jill Biden delivered a keynote address, speaking about the importance of gun safety in the 2020 election and thanking volunteers for their work. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) accepted the first-ever Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year award during a conversation with Everytown President John Feinblatt.
Students Continue to Lead the Way
The pandemic profoundly changed how and where students learn, but Students Demand Action volunteers adapted to the challenge and harnessed this new, fully virtual environment to bring more young people into the movement and make an even greater impact. Students Demand Action grew to more than 400 groups across the country and saw an uptick in engagement as many young volunteers used gun safety advocacy as a way to stay connected to their peers and communities while home from school.
Before the pandemic hit, Students Demand Action volunteers were planning on-campus voter registration drives. They quickly pivoted to online, relational organizing through texting, phone-banking, and social media, using cutting-edge virtual tools to engage with first-time and young voters. They launched virtual field offices across the country to meet their goal of registering 100,000 young voters ahead of the election. Overall, Students Demand Action volunteers succeeded in registering more than 100,000 new voters this cycle—all while juggling classes, work, and extracurricular activities.
In just three years, Students Demand Action has grown to include more than 1,200 student leaders who organized thousands of student volunteers to host national summits, work on state legislative campaigns, support local city gun violence initiatives and participate in Everytown’s electoral work.
Gun Violence Survivors
Gun Violence Survivors Sharing Their Voices
Before the pandemic, we came together to share and amplify the voices of gun violence survivors during the second annual National Gun Violence Survivors Week the first week of February. With a gun death rate 11 times greater than other high-income nations, more people are killed with guns in the U.S. by early February than are killed with guns in our peer countries during the entire calendar year. This year, more than 1,000 Americans who have been directly impacted by gun violence shared their stories on the Moments That Survive story wall. More than 200 events were organized to elevate the stories of survivors of gun violence, while 99 members of Congress, dozens of mayors, presidential candidates, cultural influencers, and nearly 50 non-profit partners highlighted National Gun Violence Survivors Week. People magazine partnered with Everytown Creative Council chair Julianne Moore and members of the Everytown Survivor Network on a documentary about the experience of being a gun violence survivor.
Gun violence survivors who are members of the Everytown Survivor Network continued to share their stories during the pandemic. Each year, the Network holds a fellowship program training for survivors of gun violence. This year, survivors convened in Las Vegas, Miami, and Detroit. The Philadelphia convening was held virtually as the pandemic worsened. All told, 100 new survivor leaders were part of the 2020 Everytown Survivor Fellowship program. Throughout the year, they found new ways to collectively speak at hundreds of events and share their personal stories.
Additionally, the Everytown Survivor Network held a summit in May focused on how survivor voices can inspire hope, healing, and change. The summit featured more than 125 survivors who learned how and why their personal stories are so powerful in keeping gun violence front of mind during the pandemic. And in August, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund invited more than 90 survivors of gun violence to a summit to learn new ways to support gun sense candidates in the runup to the November election.
The NRA Lost Big in 2020—and the American People Won
While our movement has never been stronger, the NRA has never been weaker. And Everytown’s investigations, reports, organizing, and accountability projects have exposed the NRA’s turmoil and decline, educating the public about the NRA and weakening their influence.
In addition to its mounting legal troubles and skyrocketing legal fees, it was revealed this year that the NRA’s membership revenue had plummeted, and it had run a deficit for the fourth year in a row. Due in part to declining revenue and its immense legal, financial and internal turmoil, the NRA could only muster half of its political spending from 2016 this cycle—and it devoted most of that money to reelecting President Trump, which turned out to be a very bad investment.
In short, 2020 was the worst year in recent memory for the NRA—which is a great sign for anyone who cares about gun safety in America. Throughout the year, Everytown has continued to shine a spotlight on the NRA’s downward spiral—including through NRAWatch.org, a new website that educates the public about the NRA’s misdeeds, questionable finances, and legal woes.
Some lowlights include:
The NRA reported plummeting membership revenue, contributing to massive financial woes
In October, leaked financial documents showed that “membership dues to the NRA fell more than $57 million” in 2019, the largest drop since 2012. Earlier this year, the NRA reportedly laid off or furloughed over 200 employees due to financial struggles. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre was caught on tape saying that the NRA suffered “about a $100 million hit” in 2018 and 2019, and that he had taken “about $80 million” out of the budget for the NRA to “survive.”
The NRA’s legal troubles—and fees—skyrocketed
This summer, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit seeking to dissolve the NRA for allegedly violating New York’s charities law. On the same day, DC Attorney General Karl Racine sued the NRA for allegedly exerting undue influence over the NRA Foundation. On top of that, the NRA also faces a class action lawsuit, is embroiled in various lawsuits with former business partner Ackerman McQueen, and just settled a lawsuit with New York State’s Department of Financial Services—an investigation that began after Everytown conducted and shared an investigation and legal analysis into the NRA’s Carry Guard program in 2017. These lawsuits have led to immense legal bills, with the NRA paying its outside lawyer $38.6 million in just two years. And if that wasn’t enough, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Wayne LaPierre is under criminal investigation for potential tax crimes relating to fringe benefits received through the NRA.
The NRA’s big bet on President Trump was a bust
During the 2020 election cycle, more than 66% of the NRA’s federal independent expenditure spending was devoted to reelecting President Trump. The NRA lost that bet in a big way on Election Day, and it will soon find itself in the same place as President Trump on January 20: out of power.
NRA leaders peddled conspiracy theories about COVID-19 to encourage more gun purchases
Several NRA board members were caught furthering racist narratives about COVID-19, spreading conspiracy theories, and encouraging anti-quarantine protests. These egregious comments were widely reported, including the use of racist rhetoric and fear-mongering claims that buying guns was the only way to stay safe during the pandemic.
The NRA was exposed for years of silence and racism around police violence
After the police killing of George Floyd, several prominent NRA personalities made racist comments about the Black Lives Matter movement—including comparing Black Lives Matter to Nazis and ISIS, defending Rayshard Brooks’ killers, and complaining that Black people never said “thank you” to white people for freeing them from slavery. This led to reporting that exposed years of silence—and worse—around police killings from the NRA, which falsely claims to be “America’s longest-standing civil rights organization.”
An in-depth Everytown Support Fund report explored the links between the NRA and the rise of armed extremism in America
The report, released in October, traces the growth of far-right extremism in America, from the fringes of the internet to the NRA and the Trump White House. The report demonstrates how the NRA has been instrumental in spreading far-right messaging; fanning the flames of anger, racism and fear; and advocating for lax gun laws that enable violent extremists to arm themselves.
President-elect Biden is not afraid of the NRA
Throughout his campaign, President-elect Biden touted the fact that he’s twice taken on the NRA and won—first in 1993, when he helped pass the bill to establish our background check system, and again in 1994, when he secured the passage of a 10-year ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Moving forward, the President-elect has made it clear whose side he is on. His website reads: “Joe Biden will defeat the NRA again.”
The U.S. House Leads on Gun Safety
Gun Sense Leaders in the U.S House Continued to Lead on Gun Safety—Even as the Senate and White House Refused to Take Action
The gun sense majority in the U.S. House of Representatives picked up right where it left off in 2019, passing historic gun safety legislation and pressuring the Senate to act to save lives.
Passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act
Police violence is gun violence, with police in America shooting and killing more than 1,000 people every year. In June, the House passed a bill that is a key step in curtailing this violence and addressing the systemic racism in policing that has hurt and killed Black people in America for centuries. The bill passed the House with bipartisan support and a 55-vote margin.
Passing a historic appropriations package
In July, Everytown advocated for and House Democrats passed the strongest gun safety appropriations package in history. Key provisions included measures to strengthen the background check system, address the rising threat of ghost guns, prevent domestic violence, invest in school safety, prevent firearm suicide, and more.
Highlighting the deadly inaction of President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other NRA cronies
Throughout the year, our grassroots army made it clear that anyone who stands in the way of gun safety will be held accountable. Our supporters hosted events across the country with members of Congress including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Jim Clyburn, wrote more than 10 survivor op-eds demanding federal action, and drove more than 870,300 constituent messages to the Senate. In addition, Everytown ran accountability ads to pressure gun sense opponents in the Senate.
Heading into 2021, our movement is incredibly fortunate to have President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the White House. In addition to pushing for gun safety legislation in Congress, there’s much they can do via executive action throughout this presidency—including creating a gun violence prevention task force that can coordinate efforts across agencies to aid their work on tightening our porous background check system, addressing the rise of hate crimes, banning ghost guns, funding critical city gun violence interventions, stopping gun violence in schools by limiting student access to firearms, and more (our full executive action memo can be found here). We are counting on this administration to do the right thing and save lives, and we’ll be here to support them every step of the way.
Changing the Culture to Prevent Gun Violence
Amid nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis on May 25, Americans came together for the 2020 Wear Orange campaign during the sixth annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 5. Participants were united in their call to end gun violence, including police violence against Black people.
All told, there were more than 250 virtual events held in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. during Wear Orange weekend. In addition, more than 100 mayors from across the country, 230 nonprofit partners, 75 corporate brands and 150 landmarks and key buildings participated in the campaign. And, in a show of force from major athletes speaking out on gun safety, 25 professional sports teams across the country, along with more than 140 players across all 12 WNBA teams, partnered to elevate Wear Orange.
Cultural Stories About The Toll of Gun Violence Take Center Stage
Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund was an early partner and financial supporter of the Netflix film If Anything Happens I Love You, a powerful animated short showing the devastating grief caused by gun violence. It reached #1 on Netflix in 13 countries, including #8 overall in the U.S., and its hashtag received more than 50 million views on TikTok. Everytown also worked with major television shows, ranging from “New Amsterdam” (NBC) to “Unbelievable” (Netflix), to create or elevate storylines about the toll of gun violence.
Working With Our Partners
Everytown continued to deepen community engagement, including:
The Everytown Veterans Advisory Council continued to expand this year, hosting an eight-part series on military veterans working on gun violence prevention priorities that featured a variety of distinguished guests, including Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Rep. Max Rose (D-NY), Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), and more.
Everytown launched the inaugural Interfaith Advisory Council. The Council’s goal is to play a critical role in making life-saving information available to communities through the places they worship.
National Domestic Violence Partner Leaders
Guns exacerbate the power and control dynamic used by domestic abusers to inflict emotional abuse and exert coercive control over their victims—a dynamic that is only worsened by conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in calls to domestic violence hotlines across the country. Everytown has continued to expand its relationship with national partners like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and National Network to End Domestic Violence to create tools and resources for this unprecedented crisis.
Surge in Gun Sales
Exposing the Dangers of This Year’s Surge in Gun Sales
Gun sales have hit record levels during the pandemic, leading to increased risks of domestic gun violence, unintentional gun violence, gun suicide and city gun violence throughout 2020. The spike in gun sales also dangerously overwhelmed the National Instant Criminal Background Check system (NICS)—making all of our communities less safe by likely allowing thousands of people prohibited from owning guns to obtain them via the Charleston loophole.
Everytown’s work has been critical to exposing this dangerous trend. We have filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that revealed:
- The NICS system is completely overwhelmed. From March to July 2020, 54% more background checks were delayed past three days compared to the same time last year. This means that 294,683 gun sales could have proceeded without a completed background check, which is more than all of 2019.
- Possibly four times more guns were transferred to prohibited purchasers from March to July 2020 than during the same time last year. And this is a conservative estimate.
Recognizing the urgent need for gun safety education among first-time gun owners, Everytown Support Fund, with Moms Demand Action, released a PSA on secure gun storage in April, spending $400,000 to run the ad on streaming services and digital platforms nationwide. Produced as part of the Be SMART program, the ad encouraged gun owners to keep guns out of the hands of children and teens by practicing secure gun storage, which is the best protection against unintentional shootings and a proven way to reduce teen gun suicide. The PSA was viewed more than 12 million times and shared by notable people including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), and Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO).
In 2019, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Everytown for Gun Safety Victory Fund spent $2.5 million to help flip the Virginia General Assembly to a gun sense majority, outspending the NRA in Virginia by a 4-to-1 margin. That was alongside months of work by Moms Demand Action volunteers who talked to voters, knocked on tens of thousands of doors, and made more than 100,000 phone calls.
In 2020, the newly-elected majority followed through on its promises as they took office, passing landmark legislation that included background checks on all gun sales and extreme risk legislation. Legislators also passed laws to strengthen secure storage requirements, limit gun purchases to one per month, create a voluntary “no-buy” list to help prevent suicide and give local governments more authority to regulate guns, among other provisions. In April, Gov. Ralph Northam announced on a press call with Everytown and Moms Demand Action that he had signed the bills into law, saying it was “past time we took bold, meaningful action to make our communities safer.”
In another win for public safety in Virginia, multiple municipalities—from Richmond to Charlottesville—took advantage of the new authority the state legislature granted them, and passed and amended new local ordinances to prohibit firearms in sensitive places. These ordinances impact more than 2 million Virginians.
Moms Demand Action volunteers were a fixture at the statehouse in Richmond throughout the legislative session, as they were in statehouses across the country. In partnership with allies in the gun violence prevention movement, Moms Demand Action volunteers packed hearing rooms—safely and virtually after the pandemic hit—urging lawmakers to strengthen gun laws.
Although nearly all legislative sessions were shortened due to the pandemic, the sea change on gun safety in statehouses continued, resulting in deep gains in unlikely places as well as significant passage of stronger gun laws this year:
- New Mexico enacted an extreme risk law, showing lawmakers’ continued commitment to gun safety a year after the state required background checks on all gun sales. There are now 19 states with this lifesaving legislation.
- Rhode Island and Hawaii became the latest states to prohibit ghost guns, taking action to address this growing threat to public safety.
- California continued investing in gun violence intervention programs even as it faced budget cuts from the pandemic. Virginia and Washington state passed major funding packages for gun violence intervention programs, which are critical to interrupting cycles of city gun violence that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
- Virginia and Washington state passed laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
- In 2020, states reckoned with a legacy of systemic racism and its manifestation on this nation’s policing practices. Police violence is a form of gun violence, and we joined with partners in support of racial justice to advocate for police reform and increased accountability. California, Connecticut, Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah and Virginia, among others, passed police reform legislation, enacting changes to raise standards, promote transparency and accountability, and help prevent shootings by police. This work will continue in 2021.
Additionally, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers continued to urge school boards and school superintendents across the country to send information about secure storage of firearms directly to parents and guardians. In 2020, some of the larger school districts to institute a secure storage notification policy included San Diego, Houston, Phoenix, Tucson, and Denver.
In many states where gun lobby groups were pressuring lawmakers to weaken life-saving gun laws, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers showed up in-person and virtually. And yet again, thanks to the momentum built by the gun safety movement in recent years, the NRA saw its priority legislation fail in states where just a few years ago the gun lobby held massive sway:
- Seventeen states—Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia—rejected bills that would have allowed people to carry a hidden, loaded handgun in public without a permit.
- Fifteen states—Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming—rejected bills that would have allowed guns into K-12 schools.
- Nine states—Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming—rejected bills, once again, that would have forced guns onto college and university campuses.
- Following a long-fought defeat of this legislation in West Virginia in 2019, the legislature failed to even try again in 2020.
- Five states—Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—rejected so-called “Stand Your Ground” bills.
- In addition, states around the country—including Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Washington—rejected a slew of gun lobby attempts to weaken state gun laws, such as repealing background check requirements, deterring local officials from addressing gun violence in their communities, recognizing concealed carry permits from states with weak standards and so-called “strict scrutiny” bills attacking common-sense gun laws.
Working with Mayors
Mayors Across the Country Deepen Engagement
In 2020, Everytown launched MAIG U, a virtual training series for mayors and their staff on local gun safety and gun violence prevention efforts. The webinars highlighted programs, resources and best practices that municipalities can use to inform their own efforts to prevent gun violence locally. In its first year, more than 270 local officials from 111 cities participated in trainings that addressed topics such as how to tap into state Victims of Crime Act funding and how to address the rise of militias in cities. MAIG U also featured a “Reimagining Public Safety” series, which included webinars on gun violence intervention programs, alternative dispatch and crisis response, group violence intervention, and intimate partner violence interventions.
City Gun Violence
Bolstering Efforts to Support Local City Gun Violence Intervention Programs During A Pandemic
Everytown recognized that the coronavirus pandemic could make the crisis of gun violence in our cities worse. We consulted with leaders of cities and violence intervention programs in Oakland, Portland, Chicago, Washington D.C., and more, acknowledging the growing need for immediate support to local gun violence intervention groups. These groups were working to combat COVID-19, gun violence, and the systemic racism that has long caused inequities in communities across the country all at the same time.
Among other guidance to cities, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund was proud to provide more than $2.5 million in grant funding to nearly 60 local groups on the front lines of gun violence in American cities. This represented an expansion of Everytown Support Fund’s program to support more community-led gun violence organizations, and builds on years of support for this life-saving, on-the-ground work in cities.
Local intervention groups, including South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace, Roca Baltimore, and Faith in Action Birmingham Peacemakers, are using the grant funding to continue interrupting the cycle of gun violence in their communities. The grants are being used to sustain or expand the implementation of evidence-based gun violence intervention strategies, including street outreach, hospital-based violence intervention, group violence intervention strategies, and more.
The 2020 grants were across three different programs:
- The Community Gun Violence Prevention Grant Program: In its second year, the program also includes a year of peer-to-peer counseling, convenings, and training from Everytown Support Fund staff and subject-matter experts. The grant program supports 26 community-led organizations in 23 cities.
- The CityGrip COVID Response Grant: This grant offered one-time funding to support community-based gun violence intervention programs in 20 cities so they could continue the life-saving work of interrupting violence while helping to fight the spread of COVID-19.
- The Wear Orange Community Grants: In recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 5, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers raised funds to support community groups working at the intersection of racial justice and gun violence prevention. Supporters donated nearly $150,000, which has been bolstered by an additional $130,000 grant by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, in support of 14 community-led organizations.
Beyond providing funding directly to local gun violence intervention groups, Everytown Support Fund also provided a roadmap for sustained support. In January, Cities United and Everytown Support Fund released a new report, A Fund for Healing: VOCA Grants for Violence Reduction, highlighting the millions of dollars in federal Victim of Crime Act funding available for state agencies to unlock in support of local organizations working to prevent gun violence. The report shared recommendations for states, cities, hospitals, and local organizations on how to direct this funding to the communities most impacted by gun violence.
Everytown staff also partnered with the National League of Cities’ Criminal Justice Policy Advisors Network to advise hundreds of mayors and city managers on the implementation of gun violence prevention strategies in response to increases in gun violence.
In addition, our latest guidance on Community-led Public Safety Strategies elevated organizations that have successfully reduced violence by implementing alternative public safety measures that are locally driven, informed by data, and don’t require police involvement.
Conducting Research to Inform Solutions to Gun Violence
As the pandemic brought about an economic crisis and gun sales spiked across the U.S., many experts warned about the possible effects on rates of suicide and domestic violence. Meanwhile, many cities started seeing sharp increases in shootings. Through an unprecedented year, advocates, journalists, and policymakers sought clear analysis—and researchers at the Everytown Support Fund were there to help.
Gun Violence and COVID-19: Colliding Public Health Crises
In June, Everytown researchers assembled data on the colliding public health crises of COVID-19 and gun violence, sharing information about surging gun sales, the risk of child gun suicide and unintentional shootings, the risk of gun suicide, domestic violence risks, and the persistent problem of city gun violence, while offering solutions.
Thousands of Preventable Gun Suicides: A Collateral COVID-19 Public Health Crisis
Also in June, Everytown researchers estimated the economic effects of the pandemic could lead to 20 additional gun suicides per day in 2020, drawing on data from the Great Depression and the Great Recession.
How COVID-19 Has Increased the Need for Street Outreach Work
Everytown then released How COVID-19 Has Increased the Need for Street Outreach Work, a report on the critical work of street outreach groups that have been on the frontlines of gun violence prevention for decades and are now taking on the challenge of being frontline public health workers as well.
The Impact of Active Shooter Drills in Schools: Time to Rethink Reactive School Safety Strategies
In September, Everytown researchers released the results of a first-of-its-kind study showing that active shooter drills in schools are associated with significant and lasting increases in depression, stress, anxiety, and fear of death among students, parents, and teachers. The study, a partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology’s Social Dynamics and Wellbeing Lab, presented strong evidence on the harmful impacts of active shooter drills.
The Rise of Firearm Suicide among Young Americans
In September, Everytown researchers detailed an increase in the rate of firearm suicide among young people over the last decade. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and teens, and, over the past decade, the firearm suicide rate has increased 56% for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old.
Firearm Suicide By Congressional District
In October, Everytown researchers detailed the number of annual firearm suicides for each U.S. congressional district, illuminating regions where this crisis is particularly acute and providing critical new data for policy makers and the public. Data on gun deaths nationally and by state, congressional district, and county is available at EveryStat, a one-stop shop for gun violence statistics.
A More Complete Picture: The Contours of Gun Injury in the United States
In December, Everytown researchers released new research on the extensive toll of nonfatal shootings in the U.S. and for every state, drawing on hospital records to estimate the daily average of nonfatal shootings and highlight the disproportionate share shouldered by adolescents and young adults, particularly males.
In the Courts
Taking the Fight for Gun Safety to the Courts
From youth smoking to the opioid crisis, legal accountability has been a powerful tool for advocates tackling American public health crises, and it’s critical to ending gun violence. Continuing to open new frontiers in the fight for gun safety, Everytown Law brought innovative arguments and relentless advocacy into American courtrooms throughout 2020. Again and again, Everytown litigators scored victories for cities, gun violence survivors, and the general public.
In 2020, Everytown Law:
- Took legal action in Ohio on behalf of the cities of Columbus and Dayton over gaps in the state’s background checks system—the first suit of its kind anywhere.
- Sued the ATF on behalf of several cities over the federal agency’s failure to regulate ghost guns.
- Challenged a Texas law making it difficult for small businesses to keep guns off of their premises.
- Called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Smith & Wesson’s advertising and promotion of its M&P line of assault rifles, citing substantial evidence the company uses unfair and deceptive practices to market the rifles to young, male consumers.
- Sued Luckygunner.com, along with its owners, as part of an ongoing civil suit related to the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in 2018, after determining that the 17-year-old shooter bought more than 100 rounds of ammunition before the shooting on a website that accepted payment in prepaid American Express gift cards and never verified his age.
Litigators delivered life-saving results:
- In wins for gun violence survivors represented by Everytown Law, a gun manufacturer, gun dealer, and gun trafficker tied to a 2016 Kansas City shooting all faced consequences this year. The gun trafficker was ordered to pay $4 million in damages, the dealer agreed to stop selling firearms as part of a settlement, and the gun manufacturer declared bankruptcy after losing its motion to dismiss in the wrongful death lawsuit. In an effort to keep the manufacturer from transferring its assets to its successor company, Everytown Support Fund also acquired its inventory in a bankruptcy auction, while also urging federal regulators to revoke a firearms license granted to the successor company.
- In a win for parents represented by Everytown Law, an Ohio appeals court ordered the Madison Local School District to halt a program allowing teachers to carry hidden, loaded weapons in classrooms with minimal training.
- In a win for the city of Albuquerque, which was represented by Everytown Law, a New Mexico court dismissed a lawsuit challenging the city’s enforcement of state-law prohibitions on firearms in community and health centers.
- In a win for a gun violence survivors represented by Everytown Law, Everytown Support Fund and the American Councils for International Education (ACIE), along with its partner organizations, the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation (AIFS) and the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN-USA), announced that ACIE, AIFS, and iEARN-USA would be providing a seed grant of $300,000 to help establish the Sabika for Peace Foundation, an organization formed in memory of Sabika Aziz Sheikh, the 16-year-old exchange student killed in the Santa Fe High School mass shooting.
Defending Sensible Gun Laws
2020 was destined to be a major year in Second Amendment litigation after the Supreme Court heard its first Second Amendment case in a decade last December. In April, the Court rejected the gun lobby’s position, instead agreeing with gun safety advocates, including Everytown Law, that the case brought by the NRA’s New York affiliate was moot. The next month, the high court frustrated the gun lobby yet again, declining to take up any other Second Amendment cases this term. To observers, this sent a clear signal: No majority existed to endorse the NRA’s extreme and dangerous reading of the Constitution.
Just months after the court issued its opinion in the landmark case, the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg upended American politics and left the Court’s future—including its position on gun safety laws—unclear. As many wondered what the election-season nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett would mean for public safety, Everytown offered timely analysis, highlighting Judge Barrett’s record and previewing the next issues the Court could consider on firearms.
So, what’s next?
As America heads into the new year, the future of gun safety has never been brighter. The strongest gun safety administration in U.S. history will be sworn in on Inauguration Day. We vastly weakened the NRA and our grassroots army has grown to include nearly six million supporters who are committed to tackling America’s gun violence epidemic.
It’s clear that next year will be a critical one for our movement. President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have pledged to act on gun safety via executive action and legislation to save lives, and we will stand beside them and gun sense champions in the House and Senate every step of the way. Beyond Washington, we will continue to push for meaningful change in statehouses, courthouses, boardrooms, and communities. And, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers will take the virtual lessons learned in 2020 to keep fighting for life-saving changes in 2021.
People are ready for life-saving action on gun safety, and we’ll stop at nothing to turn that energy into action.