GUNS: How to Stop the Next School Shooting

Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action and the author of Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World.

'Women can outgun the gun lobby'

Yet another first grader was shot and killed in the sanctity of an American elementary school. This time in South Carolina last month.

It’s been almost four years since 20 first graders and six educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. Since then, a gun has been discharged at an American school at least 199 times. Also since then, Congress has done absolutely nothing in response.

The first grader shot on an elementary school playground in South Carolina was killed by a 14-year-old boy armed with a handgun. That same day in Tennessee, another 14-year-old boy brought a loaded gun to school with the plan to shoot teachers and a police officer. But first he went to talk to his school counselor who bravely convinced the boy to hand over his gun, averting yet another school shooting.

[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

These boys—not old enough to drive, probably not old enough to shave—have something tragic in common: they were able to gain access to loaded guns. Think about that for a second: we live in a nation where it is so easy to get guns that 14-year-old children are taking them to school.

This isn’t a rare occurrence: the tragedy in South Carolina was the 37th school shooting in the U.S. in 2016, and the second this year in the state.

The school shooting that pulled me and so many other Americans off the sidelines was Sandy Hook. The day after that mass shooting, I started a page on Facebook that turned into Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America—a grassroots movement aimed at ending gun violence. Now part of Everytown for Gun Safety, we have more than 3 million supporters and a chapter in every state.

Over the past four years, I’ve learned that school shootings are a uniquely, horrifically American phenomenon. Americans seem inured to the shooting of children and teachers. We tolerate politicians who bow down to a gun lobby that pushes an agenda of guns everywhere, for everyone, no questions asked.

How can we claim to be a moral, developed nation when we allow—even encourage through lax laws—the shooting of children in their classrooms?

The answer to this question could be decided by the outcome of the presidential election in November. One candidate wants to stop gun violence by strengthening gun laws, the other promises to put guns in schools on day one of his presidency.

This is why Moms Demand Action and the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund have endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Clinton is the first presidential candidate in a generation to make gun violence prevention part of her policy platform. She understands we can help stop gun violence by strengthening our gun laws. Clinton and her running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, are fed up with school shootings and gun violence that kills 91 Americans and injures hundreds more every day.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump vows to force guns in schools on the first day of his presidency. He shared the stage at the Republican National Convention with the NRA’s chief lobbyist. He has even issued veiled threats that seemed to suggest that “Second Amendment people” should harm Clinton.

It’s no surprise then that the NRA’s extremist leadership has endorsed Trump and that they’re pouring $15 million and counting into his campaign.

But women can outgun the gun lobby: we’re the majority of the voting electorate and will determine the outcome of this election. And candidates’ plans to address gun violence will be an important voting consideration this year when we go to the polls.

In fact, a recent poll by EMILY’s List showed that independent women voters, young women and women of color all rank gun violence as a top concern in this election.

That’s why Moms Demand Action has become a force to be reckoned with—we’re winning countless fights in statehouses, mobilizing around ballot measures and supporting candidates who stand on the side of gun safety.

And even though Congress is sitting on its hands, states legislatures are acting. Six states have tightened background check laws since Sandy Hook and Nevada, Maine and Washington state will vote on gun safety measures next month.

We’re doing everything in our power to make 2016 the Year of Gun Safety. We’ve been a constant presence at presidential campaign stops since the primaries started. We launched an unprecedented mobilization effort to support gun sense candidates and to turn out Gun Sense Voters.

And so far in 2016, Moms have knocked on nearly 17,000 doors and made almost 134,000 phone calls for national, state and local political campaigns.

We’ve made a lot of progress on this issue in less than four years. For the sake of America’s children—the first “generation lockdown”—we cannot allow it to be dismantled by electing the extremist NRA leadership’s choice for president.

It’s time for not just women and mothers, but all Americans concerned about the gun violence crisis killing our loved ones, to step up and help elect gun sense champion Hillary Clinton in November. Let’s vote like our lives depend on it—because they do.

Shannon Watts is a mom of five children and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Tap to read full story

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at