Recently, March For Our Lives welcomed its first executive director, Alexis Confer. Confer has made her career in political activism; her credentials include Everytown for Gun Safety and Obama’s 2012 campaign. This is one of several moves the two-year-old organization has taken to make itself sustainable after soaring rapidly to national notoriety. With over 300 local chapters, MFOL has also hired regional directors and built a formal infrastructure between local groups and headquarters. Despite these major changes, Confer has stressed her desire for MFOL to remain youth-led and oriented.
In December, Congress approved $125 million in funding for the STOP School Violence Act. Some of this spending will go towards Sandy Hook Promise, whose programs include Know the Signs and Say Something. Know the Signs offers in-school training which teaches students to recognize when a peer is at risk for committing violence. Say Something allows students to report dangerous or “red flag” behaviors to an anonymous nationwide network, accessible via desktop, app, and hotline.
This month, Everytown Law announced that it would be representing Kansas City, MO in a lawsuit against gun manufacturer Jimenez Arms, Inc. The government of Kansas City, which has one of the highest homicide per capita rates in the US, alleges that the company has contributed to the city’s crime epidemic. The company has been linked to a gun trafficking ring which illegally brought 77 firearms into the city, 55 of which were manufactured by Jimenez. The suit claims that the company either knew about the illegal activity or ignored signs of it.
The lawsuit is the first time in a decade that a city has taken legal action against the gun industry.
In December, Giffords Law Center released its 2019 Gun Law Trendwatch. It noted that states have led the way in gun violence prevention, passing bills that included increased background check requirements and restricting access for domestic abusers. States have also invested heavily in violence intervention and prevention programs; the seven top-spending states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia) invested a combined $132 million in such efforts.
However, the report notes that some states repealed gun safety laws or passed bills which weakened protections. For example, three states (Arkansas, Indiana, and North Dakota) repealed weapons regulations, and three additional states (Idaho, Texas, and West Virginia) passed laws allowing more guns in public spaces.
As usual, states and localities have made leaps while the federal government has largely stalled. The STOP School Violence Act combats a major cause of the mass shooting epidemic, although it does nothing to address the larger issue of gun deaths. Mass shootings in schools are traumatic on a national level, but their death toll is dwarfed by that of other forms of gun violence. For example, suicides involving guns are roughly 40% more common than homicides (mass shootings included). Ultimately, easy access to guns is the most important factor in the nation’s astronomical gun death toll; it’s no coincidence that the US’ gun ownership rate is roughly three times higher than Canada’s, and our gun death rate is seven times higher. Education alone cannot stem this tide.
In the face of limited federal action, the most immediate solutions lie outside of Washington. March For Our Lives, Everytown, and Giffords Law Center are wise to dedicate such effort to state and local legislatures. In particular, MFOL’s efforts to strengthen its grassroots infrastructure is a promising step towards crystallizing its unique and highly-engaged network.
Photo by annie bolin