SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Moms Demand Action is the nation’s largest grassroots organization fighting for an end to gun violence. Shannon Watts started the organization following the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012 as a Facebook group for concerned parents. Now the movement has become nationwide.
“I realized after more and more of these things happened that I was almost getting numb to it and I knew that was a problem,” said Emily Thomas, chapter lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Volunteers with MDA can be found at parades.. protests.. concerts and sporting events.
“We are not about taking guns away from people. We are pro-2A, we are pro having guns. Several of our volunteers have guns. But what we are for is responsible gun ownership,” Thomas said.
Chapter leader Emily Thomas joined in 2015 after the Harrisburg High School Shooting. Like Thomas, many of the volunteers joined the organization following personal experiences.
“I just jumped in knowing that it was time…to not be numb anymore and to actually help, because that was the worst day of my life, not knowing if my son was killed,” Thomas said.
“In 2017 after the shootings at the Las Vegas concert is when I got involved more,” said Shannon Emry, volunteer.
“I lost a friend of mine to gun violence in 5th grade, so I’ve been pretty passionate about this movement ever since then,” said Tiffany Thoelke, social media lead.
The chapter’s social media lead, Tiffany Thoelke, recently traveled to D.C representing the South Dakota chapter.
“I went to DC to meet with Senate members. I personally met with Amy Klobuchar and Jon Tester from Montana,” Thoelke said.
The goal was to work alongside lawmakers to create gun safety laws.
“We went there to share our stories and connect with the Senate and then a couple days later they announced 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats were in support of this (gun laws),” Thoelke said.
The measure, which recently passed the senate, expands background checks for people under 21 – it would give 10 days to review juvenile and mental health records. It provides money for states to enact “red flag” laws, allowing courts to seize guns from people deemed dangerous. it also targets the so-called “boyfriend loophole” by preventing dating partners convicted of domestic abuse from buying a gun.
“I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what gun violence is. A lot of people don’t know gun violence is suicide by firearm, gun violence is domestic violence, unintentional shootings. Those are all forms of gun violence,” Thomas said.
According to the Gun Violence Archive as of June 22, 2022, there have been nearly 21,000 (20,735) gun violence deaths this year in the US. More than 9,000 (9,317) of those deaths were homicides.
“We have a homicide rate that’s 26 times higher than the homicide rate of any other peer country,” Emry said.
As of mid June, the Gun Violence Archive, lists 278 mass shootings in 2022 and 782 children under the age of 17 have died of gun violence.
“No one is pro-gun violence. Whatever side you’re on, no one is for children dying, people dying by suicide, no one is for that,” Thomas said.
And the numbers continue to steadily rise every year.
“We have been separated so much that we have to now be able to be open and meet in the middle. In order to change what is happening lately, “both sides” need to come together and realize that no one is for gun violence,” Thomas said.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer advocate for Mom’s Demand Action, you can text READY to 6-4-4-3-3.