There Is Nothing More Fierce Than Moms and Young People on a Mission

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting, something important happened.

The House Judiciary Committee passed a measure Wednesday that would require background checks for all gun sales and most gun transfers within the United States, the most significant gun-control legislation to advance this far in Congress in years.

The committee spent more than nine hours debating the bill before voting 21 to 14 to advance it Wednesday night. Next, it will face a vote on the House floor…The committee also voted 23 to 15 to advance a bill that would close a loophole in the current background-check law that allows a gun purchase if a check is not completed in three days.

Wednesday’s debate comes as Democrats embark on their most aggressive push to enact gun-control laws after years of congressional inaction. The House is slated to vote on several bills in the first 100 days of the legislative session and had its first hearing on a gun-control bill since 2007.

One of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who voted for those two bills on Wednesday night was Rep. Lucy McBath. Her son, Jordan Davis was shot and killed by Michael Dunn back in 2012. In the wake of that tragedy, McBath became an advocate of common sense gun safety measures, joining Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mothers of the Movement. Then she ran for congress against Republican incumbent Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th congressional district (rated R+8) and won by less than two points.

Upon her swearing-in to congress, McBath told a crowd of supporters that “there is nothing more fierce than a mother on a mission.” The moment when she was able to cast her vote for the first gun-control bill to be considered in the House since 2007 was powerful.

There is no denying that this is a very small victory in the battle for common sense gun safety measures. The bills will pass the House, but won’t get far in the Senate. That will probably have to wait until after the 2020 election. But as McBath said during the hearing, she has been working on this legislation for six years. On Wednesday night, she was able to cast her first vote “for my son Jordan.” I was reminded of the fact that the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 came nine years after the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

None of that is to dismiss the urgency of the matter. Since the Parkland shooting one year ago, 1,200 kids have been killed by guns. Teen journalists from across the country have documented their stories.

Fatal shootings of children have been on the rise, government data show. But as the deaths mount, the toll is bigger than what numbers can capture.

Working with The Trace, Miami Herald, and McClatchy, student reporters set out to measure the void left in homes and classrooms that have lost young people to the pull of a trigger.

Today, the social media feeds of the students who organized after the Parkland shooting will go dark.

The founders of the movement will not give interviews or make any public comments.

“It’s about recognizing that we need to take time for ourselves because we’ve been going so strongly for the past year without a breather,” Jaclyn Corin, a senior at Stoneman Douglas and one of the co-founders of the movement, told me in a recent phone call. “We’re giving ourselves that time to be with our friends and our family.”

The names of those students have slipped from the headlines, but they’ve been hard at work all year.

They organized two bus tours to encourage young people to vote, one in Florida and one that toured nationwide, and registered thousands of young voters over the summer. They held public meetings and formed alliances with other local youth gun-control activists—Good Kids Mad City and the Peace Warriors—and survivors of mass shootings in Santa Fe, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; and the Red Lake Indian Reservation, in Northern Minnesota, among many other places. They showed their commitment not only to ending mass shootings but to educating the public on the ways that guns increase the likelihood of fatality in acts of suicide, domestic violence, and gang strife. During a fall college tour, they continued their voter-registration push, partnering with Rock the Vote and the N.A.A.C.P.

While passing national gun safety laws is the ultimate goal, it is worth noting that in 2018, “sixty-seven gun-safety bills were signed into law in twenty-six states and Washington, D.C.”

Victories on this issue are coming in small steps at this point, but we should never forget that there is nothing more fierce than moms and young people on a mission.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.