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State’s lawmakers pick guns over kids

INDIANAPOLIS – For insight into why Indiana’s – and many other states – gun laws often seem transcribed from the Washington gun lobby’s playbook, visit a legislative hearing at the capitol.

I had this experience last week when I testified against Senate Bill 229, a bill that would allow guns on school property. You would think that the Sandy Hook, Conn., shooting in December 2012 – and the 57 additional school shootings that have taken place across America in the 15 months since – would make our elected officials realize the dangers of letting anyone bring a gun onto school property at any time.

You would also think that legislators would listen to the Indiana Association of School Principals, the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, the Indiana School Boards Association, the Indiana Urban School Association, the Indiana State Teachers Association and my organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – which all oppose the legislation – when it comes to matters of child safety at schools. If educators and moms don’t want to allow loaded guns near our children in the place they should feel safest, then whose support does that leave? The gun lobby.

During my testimony, legislators did everything they could to distract listeners from the simple truth that Indiana moms and teachers do not want easy access to guns on school property. Lawmakers yelled, cut off questioning from other legislators and refused to let me finish my responses. At one point State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour. pulled out a copy of my résumé and questioned my personal affiliations going back years.

He and other legislators were not nearly as concerned with the personal and professional credentials of the National Rifle Association lobbyist who testified in support of the bill. They also were not concerned that not a single Indiana private citizen showed up to speak up for SB 229.

Moms will endure the heckling from elected officials for as long as we need to if it means keeping our kids safe. We have come a very long way since that awful day at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The day after that shooting, I started a Facebook page where moms concerned about the gun violence in our country could gather. Just 15 months later that page has turned into a national organization with more than 150,000 moms across the country and chapters in all 50 states.

There was a time not too long ago when bills like this one came up for a vote and passed without any opposition, without any voice representing the overwhelming majority of moms in this country who support some common-sense measures to keep guns out of dangerous hands.

It’s evidence that the work of thousands of moms across the country has made a difference that we are now asked to testify on these bills – and our advocacy elicits such panicked reactions from the lawmakers in lockstep with the Washington gun lobby.

We will continue to add our voice to the discussion, because there is still so much more we can do to keep our children safe from gun violence.

Our moms have convinced Starbucks to change its policy that previously allowed customers to openly carry guns in their stores, and more recently we convinced Facebook and Instagram to prevent illegal gun sales on their platforms. This is in addition to the important laws we have helped pass in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland and other states.

Moms are making a difference in this fight, and a little bullying from legislators won’t stop our momentum.

Shannon Watts is a mother of five in Zionsville and the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She wrote this for The Journal Gazette.