2021 brought a fresh start as the strongest presidential gun safety Administration in our nation’s history was sworn in and a gun sense majority took over both chambers of Congress. But 2021 was also a year of colliding public health crises: we continued to confront the deadliest pandemic in a century as well as our nation’s raging gun violence crisis, which claims the lives of 100 people each day and wounds hundreds more. These crises have compounded each other, and we saw record rates of gun violence, as well as dramatic increases in gun sales spurred by the gun lobby’s continuous fear mongering. The gun lobby has spent the last year working to protect its bottom line and reputation even as it remains mired in lawsuits. 2021 brought some challenges, including gridlock in Congress and the failure of some lawmakers to address this urgent crisis. But there were also significant victories, including life-saving executive actions and important legislative and cultural victories driven by the growing gun violence prevention movement.
Through it all, Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, made incredible progress at the federal, state and local levels to keep our communities safe. Our movement has grown to include more than 8 million supporters, and we have seen significant victories in cities, in state capitols, in the courts and beyond. The fight to end our nation’s gun violence crisis is a marathon, not a sprint, and people from all walks of life are committed to taking the steps needed to forge a better future.
Read on for two spotlights from two of our top priorities – curbing ghost guns and increasing community violence intervention funding – and then explore what happened in 2021 and what’s ahead in 2022, as we roll up our red sleeves and get to work.
Ghost guns are unserialized, homemade firearms that can be quickly assembled and acquired without a background check. The online marketplace for these unserialized firearms has exploded in the last year, making ghost guns the fastest-growing gun safety problem in the nation. Across the country, police departments are recovering these guns at crime scenes and during arrests, while case after case shows armed extremists and white supremacists are drawn to these untraceable weapons. In sum, ghost guns are a problem that needs a comprehensive national solution.
What we’ve done about it
For years, Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers have worked in the legislative, regulatory, litigation, and grassroots arenas to push for action on ghost guns. When President Joe Biden announced in the Rose Garden in April that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would issue a new rule on ghost guns, it was the culmination of a years-long effort by our volunteers and staff.
Prior to President Biden’s April announcement, Everytown Support Fund authored a groundbreaking report on the dangers of ghost guns and, in December 2019, Everytown Law filed a petition for rulemaking, urging ATF to address the rising threat. In August 2020, after ATF failed to undertake the rulemaking requested by the petition, Everytown, joined by the cities of Syracuse, NY, San Jose, CA, Chicago, IL and Columbia, SC, sued ATF to compel the agency to correct its misinterpretation of federal law that had allowed the ghost gun threat to emerge. Everytown Law also represents the city of Los Angeles and two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies in separate lawsuits seeking accountability from Polymer80, the country’s largest ghost guns manufacturer.
Everytown staff testified at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing and submitted a formal comment on the strength of the Biden-Harris Administration’s proposed rule while working with our supporters to drive an astounding 100,000 additional public comments in support of it. Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers have also been at the forefront of getting states and cities to pass laws and ordinances to address ghost guns through direct advocacy and testimony. Eleven states and Washington, D.C. now have them, with Delaware, New York, Nevada and a number of California cities taking action most recently.
Everytown Law will help organize the defense of the forthcoming final rule in the courts while we continue to advocate for state legislation that regulates ghost guns. We will also work with the Administration and local law enforcement to implement this new rule.
2020 and 2021 saw historic increases in gun violence in cities across the country as the pandemic brought daunting challenges for critical social services and community-based intervention programs. While the exact experiences vary from city to city, leaders in communities hit hardest by gun violence shared a common message: the time is now to double down on proven, community-based interventions to stop the cycle of violence.
What we’ve done about it
Everytown is responding on multiple fronts, pushing for strong federal funding while ramping up grant support for local initiatives and capacity-building efforts and working with allies to push for broad, consistent investments from state and local governments.
Earlier this year, Everytown Support Fund launched the Everytown Community Safety Fund, committing $25 million to the effort over five years by providing grantee organizations across the country with financial support, peer networking, and capacity-building. We’ve worked closely with the Biden-Harris Administration to make historic changes to federal funding sources to clarify what funds can be used to support community violence intervention strategies, including 26 existing federal grant programs, Medicaid and the American Rescue Plan.
Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action have partnered with community-based organizations and successfully urged state lawmakers to allocate funding (more than $1 billion so far) to local violence intervention and prevention programs including in Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Everytown also joined the Invest in Us coalition, working closely with a diverse group of local, state and national partners to advocate for community violence intervention funding.
President Biden made good on his promises and the Build Back Better Act passed by the House of Representatives includes $5 billion to be split between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to help fund community violence intervention programs and strategies. In November, just ahead of House passage, Senior Advisor to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Cedric Richmond and Reps. Steven Horsford (D-NV) and Robin Kelly (D-IL) joined a press call hosted by Everytown to discuss the urgency of passing Build Back Better. The bill is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate and deserves an immediate vote.
Strongest Gun Safety Administration
Strong Action in Partnership with the Biden-Harris Administration, Coupled With Progress in Congress
In January, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took office as the strongest gun safety Administration ever elected. Throughout their campaign, they pledged to take action to end gun violence, and so far, they’ve delivered. From the first days of his Administration, President Biden prioritized appointing gun sense leaders to his cabinet and has assembled a group of secretaries and advisors who have proven track records on this issue. Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action have been there to help the Biden-Harris Administration develop its holistic and whole-of-government approach to reducing gun violence – and push it to make it as strong as possible.
Everytown has continued to regularly, advise, provide counsel, partner with – and hold accountable – the White House and Congress on a bevy of executive actions and federal legislation, including to:
Unlock critical resources and invest in community violence intervention programs
In April, the President centered community violence intervention (CVI) as part of his response to the surge in gun violence by leveraging 26 existing federal grant programs to support CVI, educating states on how to use Medicaid funding to reimburse CVI, and calling for a $5 billion investment in CVI as part of the American Jobs Plan. This wasn’t just a paper announcement – President Biden unveiled his plans in a landmark Rose Garden address while citing Everytown Support Fund’s Economic Cost of Gun Violence report. In March, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to provide much-needed funding in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden then issued guidance that unlocked ARP funds for community violence intervention programs and in June, formed the Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, a cohort of 16 jurisdictions committed to using federal funding to scale and strengthen their CVI infrastructure. President Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget called for $200 million devoted to evidence-informed, community-based interventions to address gun violence in cities.
Crack down on ghost guns
In April, following years of advocacy from Everytown and Moms Demand Action, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a proposed rule to rein in ghost gun dealers and stop the flood of untraceable, unserialized guns into our communities. After years of sounding the alarm and suing ATF, Everytown volunteers drove nearly 100,000 public comments in support of the proposed rule, which is expected to be finalized later this year. The Commerce Department also took important steps to fix an issue caused by the Trump Administration that failed to appropriately regulate blueprints for making downloadable guns. ATF has also proposed a rule on pistols affixed with arm braces – essentially deadly short-barreled rifles – that would require the majority of such devices currently on the market to be regulated under the National Firearms Act and require purchasers to undergo additional background checks, among other requirements.
Combat illegal gun trafficking
The Department of Justice rolled out new “strike forces” to crack down on illegal gun trafficking in five key corridors to help stem gun violence in major cities. The Administration also directed ATF to focus on rogue gun dealers and take steps to shut them down. Additionally, ATF will issue a new, comprehensive report on firearms trafficking and provide annual updates in order to give policymakers the information they need to help address firearms trafficking. This came on the heels of a groundbreaking Everytown analysis that found that over a five-year period, law enforcement agencies across the United States recovered and fully traced 1,161,303 guns used in crimes. Of those determined to be likely-trafficked, over 80 percent came from states without background check laws.
Prevent firearm suicide
In November, heeding Everytown’s call, the Biden-Harris Administration announced sweeping, cross-agency executive actions on suicide prevention and a robust Military and Veteran Suicide Prevention Strategy, focusing on access to firearms and secure storage. Historically, other plans have omitted access to guns from the array of solutions explored, despite the fact that suicide by firearm is far more lethal than other methods. The Administration’s actions came after Everytown shared a list of recommendations on suicide prevention with the White House and successfully urged them to act.
Fund Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research
The CDC has committed to working on improving data collection on non-fatal shootings and studying the causes of and solutions to gun violence. To that end, the Biden-Harris Administration called for $50 million in its FY 2022 budget to study gun violence, its root causes, and the places where public health interventions can be made to stop shootings before they happen.
Additionally, in 2021 the U.S. House passed:
- H.R. 8, bipartisan legislation to require background checks on all gun sales.
- The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, legislation to address police brutality, racial profiling, and other fundamental problems that plague law enforcement agencies across the country.
- The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, renewing VAWA to keep firearms away from domestic abusers and provide law enforcement with important tools to intervene when domestic abusers try to illegally obtain firearms.
- Legislation to address the Charleston loophole, a loophole in federal law that allows gun sales to proceed if a background check has not been completed within three business days.
- The FY-2022 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) appropriation bill, which contained several historic investments to help prevent gun violence and fund community violence interruption programs.
The 2021 Election
Gun safety is an issue for candidates to run and win on at the federal, state and local level, and the 2021 elections were no exception. 2021 was a record year for grassroots engagement, including the expansion of the Gun Sense Candidate distinction program in down-ballot races. Everytown Action Fund awarded 550 general election candidate distinctions (three times the number awarded in the last off-year election in 2019).
Additionally, 18 Moms Demand Action volunteers ran for office and won across the country as our leaders continue to make the move from advocating for gun safety laws to writing them. These 2021 electoral victories include Aftab Purval, a Moms Demand Action volunteer who was elected as the Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the first Asian-American to ever hold the office. He and other former volunteers join the more than 90 Moms Demand Action volunteers who have been elected to public office, including more than 40 volunteers in 2020 alone.
In New Jersey, gun sense champions Governor Phil Murphy and Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver were re-elected. Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers made tens of thousands of door knocks and phone calls to get out the vote, and Everytown Action Fund endorsed both candidates, contributing the maximum allowed to their campaigns.
Moms Demand Action Volunteers Now Demand A Seat
In 2021, Everytown Victory Fund announced “Demand A Seat,” a national program that will invest $3 million in recruiting and training hundreds of grassroots volunteers and gun violence survivors to run for local, state and federal office and to work on campaigns. The initiative provides educational training with campaign experts and volunteer mentorship opportunities. The first cohort of more than 100 participants, which includes dozens of gun violence survivors, began training this fall and we expect to recruit at least another 100 volunteers to begin training in February 2022.
Taking The Fight for Gun Safety Hyperlocal
In 2021, Everytown piloted a new hyperlocal approach to electing gun sense candidates, going further down ballot than we ever have before – and it’s working. In the Erie County, Pennsylvania sheriff’s race, Everytown Victory Fund ran a nearly $200,000 independent expenditure pilot program to help elect Chris Campanelli, who ran against a dangerous gun lobby extremist. Investing in Erie County, a pivotal swing county in Pennsylvania, was a key part in our larger push against the gun lobby’s dangerous new scheme to try electing leaders who can’t be trusted to follow their oaths and actually enforce the gun safety laws on the books. Thanks to our efforts, which included digital ads and direct mail, voters not only elected Campanelli, he was also the top vote-getter in any Erie County contested election, and significantly overperformed the Democratic candidate for Erie County executive. This victory helps lay a marker for expanded electoral engagement in down-ballot races, including sheriff elections, next year.
Re-Electing Members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns
More than 100 mayors who are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns ran for re-election in 2021, and approximately 90 percent of them won. This includes Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, a gun sense candidate who defeated Manny Gonzales, a dangerous, gun lobby-aligned candidate who opposed background checks on all gun sales. Everytown Victory Fund Albuquerque sent direct mail to make sure voters knew about Gonzales’ extreme and terrible record on gun safety.
Making Sense of Virginia and Looking Ahead to the 2022 Midterms
Virginia was top of mind, as voters in the Commonwealth headed to the polls in November. Polling showed that the gun safety laws passed in the state over the past two years were supported by the vast majority of voters, including 93% support for requiring background checks on all gun sales. Even lifetime NRA member and Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin recognized the power of gun safety, refusing to fill out the NRA’s questionnaire, ducking its endorsement and trying to hide his positions on guns as much as he could. Despite a disappointing election decided on the basis of other issues, support for gun safety continues to remain strong, especially in the Virginia suburbs, charting a clear path for the 2022 midterms.
Secure Gun Storage
Saving Lives Through Secure Gun Storage
In 2021, Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action continued the vitally important work of promoting secure storage as one of the most important ways to prevent the types of tragedies that can happen when children access unsecured firearms, including school shootings, youth suicides and unintentional shootings. Over the course of the year, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers, in partnership with the Everytown Support Fund, engaged school systems, law enforcement agencies, medical systems, public health agencies and other local and state entities to promote secure storage awareness and educate parents, schools and communities via the Be SMART program.
The Be SMART program provides all adults with a simple roadmap to practice and promote secure firearm storage. In 2021, the program achieved several significant milestones, with more than two million student households receiving information about secure storage from their school districts; 18 hospital systems incorporating Be SMART into their physician training and patient education resources; and 15 law enforcement systems, reaching over seven million homes, disseminating information about secure storage. Additionally, Aaron Donald, three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and Founder of AD99 Solutions Foundation, appeared in a PSA promoting secure gun storage and urging adults to Be SMART.
Secure storage has been a cornerstone of Everytown’s work for years. But this issue gained even greater urgency in November, when a 15-year-old child took an unsecured gun from his home in Oxford, Michigan, to school and killed four of his classmates, wounded seven people and traumatized an entire community. Following the shooting at Oxford High School, school districts in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia took significant action. The Atlanta School Board passed a resolution promoting secure storage, the Richland School District Two and several neighboring districts in South Carolina announced a partnership with the Be SMART program, and the Fairfax County School Board’s Superintendent announced that the school district will distribute Be SMART information.
NRA in Trouble
Another Disastrous Year for the National Rifle Association
The NRA’s financial and legal tailspin continued this year, and while the power and influence it has amassed over the past century will take years to fully dissipate, the writing is on the wall. 2021 was a disaster for the NRA and its CEO, Wayne LaPierre, in particular.
Facing declining membership dues (down 30 percent in 2020 compared to 2018) and several lawsuits and investigations, the NRA managed to take a bad situation and make it worse by filing for bankruptcy in what appeared to be a legal maneuver to pause, or stay, the various litigations it faces. It didn’t work, and instead the NRA spent millions in legal fees to tell the world about the rampant dysfunction and luxurious executive spending that has consumed the organization. Put more bluntly, the NRA achieved the nearly unprecedented feat of failing at filing for bankruptcy.
The result is the NRA reportedly on track in 2021 to break the record of $40 million in legal fees it spent last year, and with no sign of slowing down as the organization faces litigation from former vendors, the New York Attorney General, and the District of Columbia Attorney General.
Despite all of its legal and financial troubles, the NRA has doubled down on its extremism. A current NRA board member was exposed as having ties to far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers. And earlier this year, the NRA promoted board members with a history of making racist comments and spreading conspiracy theories on topics ranging from the 2020 election to the COVID-19 pandemic to become its president and first vice president. This decision to doubledown has continued as the alarm over far-right extremism grows across the country.
BROKEN & BANKRUPT: THE NRA IN 2021
While the NRA has fought hard to avoid being held accountable, Everytown has continued to shine a bright light on their self-interested and dangerous agenda for years. In fact, Everytown has chronicled and exposed the NRA’s misdeeds at every turn, including on our NRA Watch site, and will continue to do so as we learn more.
Combating Armed Extremism
To meet the growing threat of extremists using guns as tools of violence and intimidation, Everytown expanded its work in the area of armed extremism throughout 2021. In particular, Everytown focused on the threat that such armed groups pose to our democratic processes, and the unique role guns play in recruitment and organization in many far-right extremist groups.
Just weeks after armed insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, Everytown researchers and investigations experts released a comprehensive report detailing the role of armed extremism and guns at the attack. The report, entitled The Role of Guns & Armed Extremism in the Attack on the U.S. Capitol, lays out how guns continue to be an organizing tool for extremists and how the gun lobby continued to amplify extreme-right rhetoric – even amidst an attack on our democracy.
Everytown Support Fund also released groundbreaking research on armed protests, along with our partner organization the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), entitled Armed Assembly: Guns, Demonstrations, and Political Violence in America. Analyzing a data set of thousands of demonstrations, the report confirmed what gun safety advocates have known for years: guns don’t make us safer. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite. Armed demonstrations were found to be nearly six times more likely to become violent than unarmed demonstrations. The Everytown-ACLED research has been referenced in a number of media reports, and was even cited by seven separate amicus curiae briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Guns were present and part of the Jan. 6 attack and are an organizing principle of far-right groups, like the Proud Boys and Three Percenters … Guns aren’t just tools of intimidation and violence, they are often how extremist groups message and recruit.”Newsweek, September 14, 2021
Everytown research also shed light on the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, which has become infamous for regularly seeking out and creating violent conflict at protests. The full report, More Than Brawlers: The Proud Boys and Armed Extremism, explores the role the gun lobby has played in radicalizing the Proud Boys and groups like them.
Everytown has been a leader in highlighting the issue of armed extremism, and has encouraged states and localities to take action to prevent armed groups and individuals from carrying out acts of intimidation at state houses and in other sensitive places. In 2021, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and New Mexico enacted policies to prohibit firearms on state capitol grounds, with Virginia’s legislation also including polling places.
In 2021, gun violence survivors, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers partnered with Democratic, Republican and Independent lawmakers across the country to pass major gun safety legislation and block dangerous bills that would weaken gun laws and exacerbate gun violence.
State governments passed more than 30 gun safety laws and blocked dozens of attempts by the gun lobby to weaken gun laws. Tens of thousands of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers made this work possible through countless emails, phone calls, in-person and digital meetings and advocacy days.
A Turning Point in the Gun Safety Movement
In New York, lawmakers passed a first-of-its-kind law to allow victims of gun violence to seek justice for negligent, unreasonable and, in some cases, illegal conduct perpetrated by the gun industry — an industry that for years has been shielded from litigation by a federal law called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”).
But New York’s new law gives New Yorkers an opportunity to hold reckless gun companies accountable for their irresponsible actions. This law could serve as a turning point for the national gun safety movement, and Moms Demand Action volunteers will be working with states across the country to replicate New York’s innovative effort to return power to the communities who bear the brunt of the gun violence crisis.
Responding to Tragedy with Life-Saving Action
In Colorado, after two devastating mass shootings in Colorado Springs and Boulder, lawmakers passed a historic gun safety package. The package included a bill to close the Charleston loophole and prohibit people with recent violent criminal convictions from purchasing firearms. It also included a bill to establish an Office of Gun Violence Prevention that would help educate people about Colorado’s secure storage and extreme risk laws and support violence intervention programming, as well as a bill to repeal the preemption law that prevents local governments from enacting gun safety measures.
Volunteers Make 2021 a Year of Legislative Action
Volunteers and gun violence survivors worked with lawmakers in red, blue and purple states to pass life-saving gun safety bills, including:
2021 saw a sharp increase in gunfire on school grounds, unintentional shootings and risk of gun suicide. Colorado, Oregon, and Maine passed laws to require secure firearm storage – one of the most effective ways to ensure kids and people in crisis can’t access a gun at home. Additionally, more than 20 school districts have eithers passed school board resolutions or otherwise committed to require that secure storage information be sent home to parents. Clark County, Nevada – the fifth largest school district in the country, which is led by Moms Demand Action volunteer Linda Cavazos – was among them, and a total of more than two million students across the country are now living in school districts covered by an annual secure storage policy.
More than a dozen states – including California, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Washington and Wisconsin – have taken steps to address police violence by passing laws that limit the use of dangerous tactics and require transparency and independent investigations of use-of-force incidents. New Mexico and California took the vital step of removing long-standing barriers to holding officers accountable for misconduct or abuse of authority, giving citizens the right to seek justice and file lawsuits when police officers violate their rights. In Maryland, the legislature repealed the so-called Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, a set of laws that for decades has hindered efforts to hold officers who abuse their authority accountable, and added protections around use of force.
Community Violence Intervention Funding
State leaders and local governments from across the country, including in Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Wisconsin, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, allocated a record of more than $1 billion for local violence intervention and prevention programs. These programs have been proven to reduce community gun violence – a daily crisis that disproportionately impacts Black communities and communities of color – but they have often had to rely on scarce, competitive grants, private donations and limited city funding. This year, state legislatures allocated funding, including from the American Rescue Plan, to get these life-saving programs the resources they need to fight gun violence in their communities.
Domestic Violence and Guns
Delaware and Colorado both passed bills to help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, while Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers continue to support such bills in ongoing bipartisan efforts in Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin. At the local level and in the absence of a Michigan state law, the city of Detroit passed an ordinance to keep firearms out of the hands of domestic abusers.
Oregon passed a state law that allows local communities to take proactive gun safety actions by permitting school districts to prohibit firearms on school premises. Since Virginia passed a similar law allowing municipalities to pass local gun safety ordinances in 2020, 16 Virginia communities have passed measures to prohibit firearms in sensitive places, which now cover more than 2.8 million Virginians.
Across the country, states rejected more than 30 gun lobby-aligned bills that would have weakened gun laws following advocacy by Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers and gun violence survivors. To defeat these bills, volunteers built diverse coalitions with higher education institutions, law enforcement agencies, faith leaders, violence interrupters and impacted communities. Together, they worked to raise the alarm and mobilize advocates to make calls, send emails, and testify in opposition to gun-lobby backed bills, including:
Five states where gun lobby allies hold the majority in the state legislature – Alabama, Indiana, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana – rejected permitless carry bills that would have allowed people to carry a hidden, loaded handgun in public without a permit, one of the gun lobby’s top priorities. In Indiana, Moms Demand Action volunteers and supporters joined teachers, law enforcement officers and public safety experts in expressing their opposition to the bills by sending more than 1,500 emails to lawmakers and testifying at nearly every hearing. In Louisiana, Moms Demand Action volunteers stood with local officials, faith leaders, racial justice advocates, and gun safety advocates to oppose permitless carry and help secure a veto of the bill. An attempt to override the veto failed in a victory for public safety.
Stand Your Ground
Several states – Indiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and West Virginia – defeated bills to create or expand so-called “Stand Your Ground” or “Shoot First” laws. Volunteers and community members in these states made it clear they did not want these dangerous, racist policies that encourage anyone to shoot first and ask questions later under the guise of self-defense.
Several state legislatures, all with gun lobby majorities – Alabama, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Georgia and Wyoming – rejected bills purporting to nullify federal gun safety laws. These bills would undermine public safety and hinder law enforcement in their efforts to combat gun violence and solve gun crimes.
Other dangerous laws
In addition, states across the country–including Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming – 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, arming teachers and forcing concealed firearms into sensitive locations such as K-12 schools, government buildings and sports stadiums.
States that did pass gun lobby priority legislation this year – including Texas, Tennessee and Missouri – did so in the face of vocal opposition from law enforcement and public safety experts and are now facing serious backlash, including from traditionally conservative allies.
Fighting gun violence locally
Many cities continue to struggle with deadly increases in violence, and the pandemic has also brought daunting challenges for community-based intervention programs, including COVID-19 restrictions and expanded missions that include fighting the spread of the virus. Everytown is responding on multiple fronts, ramping up grant support for local initiatives and capacity-building efforts while working with allies to push for broad, consistent investments from governments at all levels.
Notably, Everytown Support Fund launched the Everytown Community Safety Fund, committing $25 million to the effort over five years, and distribution of the funds is already under way. This year, the program awarded $2.1 million to 30 community-based violence intervention organizations. Through the Community Safety Fund, Everytown Support Fund provides grantee organizations across the country with financial support, quarterly peer networking calls, an annual convening, consultations with Everytown staff, tailored capacity-building training and access to Everytown’s data tools and research. As cities and community groups prepare for historic investments from the federal government, the Community Safety Fund’s grant support offers immediate and flexible support that can be a lifeline for groups working to stay afloat and continue their life-saving work.
To address domestic violence – another facet of gun violence exacerbated by the pandemic – Everytown Support Fund distributed funds to 15 local and state domestic violence prevention organizations. Each grantee – which has a demonstrated track record of supporting victims and communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color – received a $10,000 grant for general operating expense support to help address the intersection of gun violence and domestic violence. The grants mark the second round of funding for this initiative, which has now supported 30 local and state organizations dedicated to fighting domestic violence.
We are also working to build local capacity. This year, Everytown Support Fund’s Community Training Institute partnered with Cure Violence, the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention, Local Initiative Support Corporation, the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Urban Peace Institute to deliver hyperlocal capacity-building workshops to fuel the implementation of promising gun violence prevention strategies. Partners shared their frontline expertise with elected officials and more than 250 community leaders on street outreach, hospital-based violence intervention programs and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) programs in Birmingham, AL, Jackson, MS, Jacksonville, FL, Memphis, TN, Philadelphia, PA and Washington, D.C.
Working for a Safer Future in St. Louis and Atlanta
As of 2021, the Everytown Community Safety Fund has supported more than 70 violence intervention programs in 42 cities deploying strategies from street outreach to hospital-based intervention. Two illuminating examples include:
St. Louis: Operating two Cure Violence sites, Employment Connection trains and employs violence interrupters, street outreach workers who build relationships with those at the highest risk of being involved in violence and mediate conflicts to prevent them from escalating into violence. Building on these relationships, Employment Connection also offers wraparound services, including case management, job training and trauma counseling and support to empower and inspire program participants to achieve self-sufficiency. Employment Connection plans to use Everytown’s grant funding to develop an employee assistance program to provide mental health support to frontline practitioners, establishing a 24-hour neighborhood tip line, numerous community events and a full suite of wraparound services for 25 of their highest-risk clients.
Atlanta: In addition to operating a street outreach site serving Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Unit V, Chris180 works to interrupt violence through a range of community support programs focused on behavioral health, including housing assistance, GED preparation, and access to mental health and employment opportunities. Through Everytown’s grant, the program has increased capacity by adding part-time positions, purchasing equipment and program space, hosted training opportunities for residents and staff, and expanded its work to include food distribution for community residents.
Mayors on the Front Lines of Fighting Gun Violence
Mayors, too, were grappling with the increase in gun violence in 2021, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns worked throughout the year to elevate the perspective of local leaders in national policy conversations and share resources about how to address local gun violence challenges, including through new federal funding.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns members advocated for local gun safety laws, such as limiting guns in sensitive places, prohibiting open carry and regulating ghost guns. In state capitols across the country, they advocated for gun safety measures to strengthen public safety and fought against dangerous gun industry proposals that put communities at risk. And they led efforts to invest American Rescue Plan funds in community-based violence intervention programs at the local level while calling on state governments to do the same.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns also convened mayors and other city officials in virtual discussions drawing hundreds of participants from around the country, each devoted to topics ranging from accessing federal funding for gun violence prevention, using the courts to hold the gun industry accountable, community trauma among Black Americans, and more.
This spring, Everytown Support Fund partnered with What Works Cities to convene an eight-week learning initiative dedicated to alternative dispatch, a crisis response model in which civilians – such as mental health and social service professionals – respond to select calls for service. Officials from the 13 participating cities shared experiences from their own cities and learned from leading experts and practitioners in the field, including leaders of the CAHOOTS program of the White Bird Clinic in Eugene, Oregon, the longest running alternative dispatch program in the country.
Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers continued their advocacy efforts in record ways this year. In fact, our eighth annual training conference in August, Gun Sense University, was the largest ever. More than 2,200 volunteer leaders and gun violence survivors gathered virtually to learn from each other, celebrate our successes and prepare for the work that lies ahead. That work was recognized by White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, who provided the keynote address and accepted the federal Gun Sense Lawmaker of the Year Award on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continued to change the way volunteers were able to lobby their lawmakers, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers didn’t miss a beat. They traded their in-person advocacy days for virtual ones that allowed an even broader spectrum of supporters to join. Throughout the 2021 election cycle, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers with their red shirts were ubiquitous on the campaign trail, taking more than 100,000 campaign actions in support of Gun Sense Candidates nationwide.
Creating a New Generation of Change Makers
Young people have grown up in the midst of the gun violence crisis, and firearms are the leading cause of death for children and teens in America, with Black and Latinx children facing a disproportionate impact. Students Demand Action volunteers continued to lead, evolve and challenge the gun safety movement this year, and with students back to school in person, they transitioned to organizing on campus once more.
In just four years, Students Demand Action has grown to include nearly 450 groups across the country who have organized thousands of student volunteers to build a grassroots movement, host national summits, work on state legislative campaigns, support local city gun violence initiatives and participate in electoral work in 2021. Students continue to lead this movement to keep their peers, their schools and their communities safe.
In 2021, Students Demand Action volunteers worked to combat the increase in youth gun violence, including participating in an expanded Summer Leadership Academy in five cities including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Nashville and Tampa. The program also added a paid internship component in local government offices, such as the Los Angeles mayor’s office and the Urban Peace Institute in Los Angeles, to provide summer youth employment, which has been proven to help combat youth gun violence.
Lifting Up the Voices of Gun Violence Survivors
Survivors of gun violence are the North Star of the gun violence prevention movement and throughout 2021, they continued to share their stories to save lives. In February, the third annual National Gun Violence Survivors Week amplified the experiences of survivors who live with the impact of gun violence every day. More than 370 survivors of gun violence sent an open letter to Congress highlighting the life-changing trauma of gun violence. And throughout the week, we organized more than 90 virtual events and activities and had more than 100 members of Congress mark the week.
In 2021, the Everytown Survivor Network continued to offer survivors virtual peer support groups focused on healing from trauma and grief, including launching new groups for survivors wounded by gun violence, survivors of gun suicide, men impacted by gun violence and bereaved parents. SurvivorsConnect is a peer support program that connects gun violence survivors with other survivors who offer emotional support, mentorship, information and referrals to community resources. Through one-on-one mentorship and support groups, we served more than 650 survivors.
The Everytown Survivor Network also hosted the first ever National Gun Violence Survivor Summit in November. More than 300 gun violence survivors from 44 states and Washington, D.C. gathered for the two-day virtual summit. They were joined by four members of Congress who spoke about their personal experiences with gun violence, including Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who gave the keynote address, as well as Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA). Additionally, Kristina Rose, the director of the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice, gave remarks.
The Everytown Support Fund also allocated nearly $70,000 in grants to assist 501(c)(3) organizations that work to support survivors of gun violence by offering victim services and elevating survivor voices in communities hardest hit by gun violence.
Cultural Change and Partnerships
Gun safety is an issue with the ability to transcend politics and cross into media, the arts and culture. 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. The film won Best Animated Short at the 2021 Academy Awards, where Everytown was mentioned in the acceptance speech.
In June, Americans came together for the 2021 Wear Orange campaign during the seventh annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day. All told, more than 1,000 partner organizations, influencers, corporate brands, elected officials and national landmarks joined in the campaign, with hundreds of thousands of Americans uniting around the call to end gun violence. President Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, Julianne Moore, John Legend, major brands and many more joined in the call to end gun violence. Additionally, thousands of grassroots volunteers from Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, in collaboration with the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and more than 200 local partners, hosted more than 330 events and activities in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The events ranged from a community cleanup event in Tennessee to suicide prevention trainings in Montana and a blood drive in California.
The Gun Violence Memorial Project, led by architecture firm MASS Design Group and artist Hank Willis Thomas in partnership with Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and Purpose Over Pain, is a tribute and memorial to the thousands of lives taken by gun violence in America. The exhibition features four houses built of 700 glass bricks, each house representing the average number of lives taken due to gun violence each week in America with bricks containing remembrance objects of people taken by gun violence. The exhibition is now open to the public at The National Building Museum in Washington D.C through September 25, 2022 and has welcomed more than 11,000 visitors and been featured by partners ranging from People magazine to the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.
In an effort to further engage with the Latinx community, Everytown worked to embark on and deepen new partnerships, including with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, QLatinx and more. In June, to mark five years since the shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Everytown partnered with QLatinx, The LGBT+ Center Orlando, the OnePulse Foundation, Equality Florida, Equality Federation Institute and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to outline solutions to help prevent gun violence.
2021 eclipsed 2020 as the worst year for gun violence in over twenty years, and advocates, journalists, and policymakers sought clear analysis to make sense of the crisis. Everytown Support Fund’s research informed not only policymakers, but also parents and students as they headed back to school only to be met by record levels of gunfire on school grounds. Everytown, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers responded to this unprecedented threat with action, sharing new school safety recommendations with the Biden-Harris Administration and advocating with the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers on a comprehensive plan to end gun violence in schools, including through pushing for secure firearm storage notification policies in school districts across the country.
Researchers at Everytown Support Fund continued to be a leading force in providing critical data and analysis, including by authoring reports on:
Everytown researchers also unveiled three interactive platforms for analyzing data related to gun violence:
The City Dashboard, a resource compiling reliable data on murders (firearm and non-firearm) from 2016 through the first half of 2021 and on gun homicides from 2016 to 2020 in nearly 500 cities.
The Crime Gun Dashboard, a resource that lets users explore ATF data on crime guns going into and out of every state in the U.S.
In the Courts
Gun Safety Progress in the Courts
Every successful movement must have a legal strategy, and from state and federal courts across the country to the Supreme Court of the United States, Everytown Law expanded its efforts to defend the gun safety movement’s progress, pursue accountability and prompt long-overdue action.
A Major Win for Parents at the Ohio Supreme Court
In June, a group of parents represented by Everytown Law scored an important win for school safety across the state when the Ohio Supreme Court struck down their school district’s program arming teachers with minimal training. Siding with the parents who had challenged the program, the court ruled that longstanding Ohio law requires comprehensive training for any school employee who carries a gun in school.
Looking Upstream to Fight the Proliferation of Ghost Guns
- With Everytown Law serving as co-counsel, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer sued Polymer80 in February on behalf of the people of California, noting that over 700 of the ghost guns LAPD recovered in 2020 were made from Polymer80 parts. In November, a court rejected Polymer80’s motion to dismiss and ruled that the case could move forward to discovery.
- In June, a court ruled a lawsuit from Mia Tretta, a survivor of the Saugus High School shooting represented by Everytown Law, could proceed against the online seller and its owner, rejecting their request to dismiss the case.
- In August, Everytown Law sued Polymer80 on behalf of two L.A. County sheriff’s deputies wounded in a 2020 ghost gun shooting.
Opening New Frontiers in the Fight Against Gun Violence
- In January, Everytown Law joined the state of Illinois and Kansas City, MO in filing a lawsuit to force federal regulators to revoke a firearms license granted to a company whose predecessor allegedly broke federal firearms law and contributed to gun trafficking and criminal activity in Illinois and Kansas City.
- Represented by Everytown Law, three Lebanon, OH residents filed a lawsuit challenging a 2020 city ordinance that ended the longstanding prohibition on carrying hidden, loaded handguns in the city’s municipal building, including during city council meetings. In November, the court rejected a motion to dismiss and ruled the case could proceed to discovery.
- Everytown Law represents the city of Chicago in suing Westforth Sports, a Gary, IN gun store alleged to have sold hundreds of illegal guns trafficked into Chicago, ignoring clear signs of straw purchases and gun trafficking.
- After a 17-year-old allegedly used a Smith & Wesson M&P assault rifle to kill two people and injure a third person during a protest for racial justice in Kenosha, WI, Everytown joined Brady and gun violence survivor Fred Guttenberg in renewing its calls for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Smith & Wesson’s marketing practices.
Everytown Law represents the Ohio NAACP and local lawmakers in filing a first-of-its-kind state constitutional challenge to Ohio’s “Shoot First” law, contending the measure’s backers violated the Ohio Constitution by adding the measure to an unrelated bill and passing the package only an hour later without providing legally mandated opportunities for public notice and debate.
Lifting Cost Barriers to Advancing Gun Safety in the Courts
In August, Everytown Law launched the Everytown Law Fund, an effort designed to support impact litigation that can help advance gun violence prevention. Through the fund, which is backed by an initial $3 million commitment from the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, Everytown Law is welcoming applications for litigation funding from smaller and mid-sized law firms, solo practitioners and non-profit legal projects. Everytown Law is particularly interested in reviewing applications to support legal action seeking to address the impact of gun violence on disproportionately affected communities, including Black, Latinx and other communities of color.
Defending Against Gun Lobby-Backed Efforts to Roll Back Life-Saving Gun Laws
2021 was a crucial year in Second Amendment litigation. In a number of cases throughout the federal and state courts, Everytown continued to offer critical analysis on the legal and historical basis for reasonable gun safety laws, filing amicus briefs in cases in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Washington, among others. Everytown’s work contributed to a number of key victories in 2021, including:
- In February, the Vermont Supreme Court rejected a gun lobby-backed challenge under the Vermont constitution to the state’s large-capacity magazine law, relying in part on Everytown’s research into the high rates of injury and death when LCMs are used in mass shootings.
- In March, the Ninth Circuit rejected an NRA-backed challenge to a Hawaii gun safety law regulating who can carry firearms in public, backing states’ right to limit public carry. In doing so, the en banc majority relied on historical arguments that Everytown Law presented in its June 2020 amicus brief in support of Hawaii.
- In June, a federal district court in Florida rejected the NRA’s challenge to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, passed in the wake of the Parkland shooting to restrict access to firearms for individuals under 21. Everytown Law had filed two briefs in the district court and, in October, filed a brief in the Eleventh Circuit to help defend against the NRA’s appeal, which remains pending.
- In November, the Ninth Circuit en banc rejected another NRA-backed challenge, this one to a California law prohibiting (with some exceptions) large-capacity magazines. Historical arguments set out in Everytown Law’s amicus brief again featured prominently in a concurring opinion joined by six of the eleven judges.
When the Supreme Court agreed in April to hear a major Second Amendment case – New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen – Everytown Law was ready. From the announcement that the court would take the case through oral argument, Everytown litigators thoroughly countered the gun lobby’s extreme and dangerous position in the case, including:
- Sounding the alarm on how much is at stake, noting that “a ruling that opened the door to weakening our gun laws could make it even harder for cities and states to grapple with this public health crisis.”
- Filing an amicus brief rebutting key parts of the NRA’s historical arguments and elevating the centuries-long history in both England and the United States of regulating the carrying of weapons in public to protect public peace.
- Sharing timely analysis as oral argument approached, questioning claims made by the petitioners about whether prominent members of the founding generation carried guns and highlighting key conservative voices arguing for the Court to uphold New York’s gun safety law.
- And along with gun safety advocates and survivors, we gathered at the Supreme Court on the morning of oral argument, urging the court to remember one key fact: gun laws save lives.
Key Court Developments in 2021
MarchAn en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that Hawaii’s law does not violate the Second Amendment. Judge Jay Bybee, a President George W. Bush appointee, wrote the court’s 7-4 decision, which included historical arguments that Everytown Law presented in its amicus brief.
JuneA California state court denied a request from a ghost gun kit seller to dismiss an Everytown Law lawsuit on behalf of Mia Tretta, who was wounded in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School.
JuneThe Ohio Supreme Court struck down a school district’s program arming teachers with minimal training. Siding with a group of parents represented by Everytown Law who had challenged the program, the court ruled that longstanding Ohio law requires comprehensive training for any school employee who carries a gun in school.
OctoberThe U.S. Department of Justice informed a federal court ATF had voluntarily begun an inspection of the premises of J.A. Industries, the successor company to the now-bankrupt gun manufacturer Jimenez Arms. On behalf of the state of Illinois and the city of Kansas City, MO, Everytown Law filed suit against ATF in January for granting a firearms license to J.A. Industries, citing evidence that Jimenez Arms repeatedly violated federal firearms laws, made misleading statements in obtaining a firearms license, and contributed to gun trafficking.
NovemberThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upholds California’s law prohibiting, with certain exceptions, large-capacity magazines. A concurring opinion written by Judge Marsha S. Berzon and joined by five other judges relied heavily on the analysis and arguments in Everytown Law’s amicus brief.
Looking Ahead to 2022
In the face of continued Congressional gridlock and inaction on the part of federal lawmakers to address this crisis, we plan to spend 2022 rolling up our red sleeves and getting to work ourselves. We’re tired of waiting for elected officials to act, and we know the steps we have to take to achieve our long-term mission of ending gun violence in America. This work is generational and time and again, we’ve proven that we are in this fight for the long haul.
Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers and gun violence survivors are active in every single state and have the opportunity to advocate for gun safety where they live, work and learn. We’re ready to continue having life-saving conversations with friends, family, neighbors and policymakers. We’ll continue to pass strong laws, hold the gun lobby accountable, elect our volunteers, win in the courts and support local gun violence prevention groups on the ground in 2022. We have chosen to dedicate our lives to this fight, and when it comes to gun violence prevention in our country, nothing will stand in our way.