After every tragic, awful mass shooting, we hear the refrain: “We have got to do something!”
But what, and how?
The push for stronger gun laws is passionate and often very public as red-shirted activists hold marches and rallies and testify before state legislatures. If that’s not your style, sending emails or text messages is a quieter, but still crucial, way to join the movement.
“However you want to do advocacy, we have a role for you,” says Toldy Dolack, Washington state chapter lead for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“Not everyone is meant to walk down Main Street holding a sign,” but that is far from the only way the organization works. Moms Demand Action (“Moms” for short, when you’re talking to Dolack about it) is an enthusiastic, diverse grassroots organization born as a Facebook group the day after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
Dolack, a Madison Park resident and mother of two grown sons, has been involved with the group, in one role or another, almost since its inception.
“Even before Sandy Hook, I disliked the NRA. I thought it was wrong-headed,” she says. “But there was very little you could do.”
Early activities of Moms Demand Gun Sense included baking cookies for legislators and sending cards to gun-violence survivors.
“It’s gone beyond baking cookies for lawmakers,” she says in a bit of understatement, although lobbying politicians at all levels is still a huge emphasis.
Moms is now under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country, claiming nearly 6 million supporters and 350,000 donors.
There are about two dozen active local Moms chapters in Washington state, heavily concentrated on the west side of the Cascades, but Dolack called out a “dynamic, growing group” in Spokane as well as units in Clark County and the Tri-Cities.
“The groups are the working piece,” Dolack explains. “I’m astounded at the ideas and motivation coming out of the local groups.”
Yes, they march. But they also talk to families at farmers markets and partner with police and pediatricians on safety campaigns. One Seattle group gathered at a brewery (a kid-friendly one, of course) over the summer to celebrate accomplishments and gear up for more work.
“A lot of moms and dads want to make an impact on their children’s lives,” she says, and there are lots of ways to do that.
In a long career in critical-care nursing, she treated only one gunshot victim – a woman who, ironically, was injured by a gun she was carrying for her own protection. “That always stuck with me.”
Dolack’s earliest work with Moms was in survivor engagement: working with those who had lost a loved one to gun violence.
“I was humbled by how survivors will step up and share their story. Some find becoming an advocate is hugely satisfying for them.”
And, as mentioned before, advocacy can take many forms.
With a group that is 99% volunteers, there are all sorts of roles and tasks.
Dolack emphasized that Moms realizes people are busy.
“People have to take care of their kids, and take the dog to the vet. But while they’re waiting, they can text – messaging lawmakers about an upcoming vote, for instance — and make a huge difference.”
Although it often feels like an uphill battle, “We know that we’re chipping away,” Dolack says. “Every little thing you do maybe saves somebody, makes somebody think.”
“We will make a difference.”
The best way to get started is to text “join” to 64433. Someone from Moms Demand Action will get in touch.
Originally published September 2019