As you prepare coverage and commentary to close out the year, here is a review of how the movement to end gun violence grew stronger in 2016 than it’s ever been before – and how we’re ready for what lies ahead in Washington and in the states in 2017.
The Silver Lining on the 2016 Election is Gun Safety
In a year that began with President Obama unveiling executive actions to reduce gun violence –momentum continued throughout the campaign cycle turning what was once considered a ‘third-rail’ of politics into a winning issue as Americans organized and voted for gun safety.
While there were many surprises on Election Night, states held the only referenda on guns this cycle – and ballot initiatives in Nevada, Washington and California resulted in new, life-saving gun safety measures, despite strong opposition from the gun lobby.
- In Nevada, voters passed Question 1, the state’s background check initiative, despite opposition from Nevada’s governor and attorney general, and despite an aggressive and misleading $6.6 million campaign by the NRA – the gun lobby’s largest investment after its record-breaking $30 million spent on the presidential election.
- In Washington, voters approved Initiative 1491, the state’s Extreme Risk Protection Order measure.
- In California voters approved Proposition 63, which strengthens gun laws.
The win in Nevada marks a turning point: Virtually half of Americans will now live in states that have closed the background check loophole. Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook, eight states have passed or strengthened background check laws, bringing the total number of states with comprehensive laws to 19.
And this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen voters buck the gun lobby and politicians, and support gun safety at the voting booth – in 2014, Washington State voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure to require criminal background checks on all gun sales, even after it was rejected by the state legislature twice. The gun safety movement’s 2016 electoral victories further bolster the polls that show overwhelming support – including from gun owners and NRA members – for measures that will save lives like background checks: When voters are given an up-or-down vote on gun safety, they vote yes.
Also to be noted: Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Moms Demand Action spent money and devoted our grassroots power in candidate races across the country to oust NRA-backed opponents of gun safety and to stand up for champions.
- In the U.S. Senate, we showed support for gun sense candidates like Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, one of the few Republicans who stood up to support background checks after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School where 20 children and six educators were killed. And we held others accountable for voting against gun safety – like Senator Kelly Ayotte, the only senator from Virginia to Maine to oppose expanding background checks. She sided with the Washington gun lobby instead of standing up for public safety so in 2013 we launched a multi-year campaign to hold her accountable for that. Fast forward to the election this year, when she learned a very important lesson: When you put gun lobby interests ahead of your constituents, you lose your job.
- In key races down the ballot, legislators learned the same lesson about siding with the gun lobby and were ousted from their roles in the Colorado, Georgia, Kansas and West Virginia statehouses. Republicans and Democrats who voted the right way on gun safety measures won in states like Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. These victories pave the way for continued, bipartisan success in defeating NRA-backed proposals and passing stronger gun laws in 2017.
To achieve our electoral goals, Everytown used state-of-the-art analytics and technology, and harnessed the grassroots power of Moms Demand Action chapters and volunteers. All told, in more than 9,000 events, we reached out to voters – in all 50 states – 3.9 million times, making 1,275,396 phone calls, knocking on 112,819 doors, sending 157,006 person to person recruitment texts in more than 75,000 hours of volunteering.
We Defeated The NRA’s Extremist Agenda in Statehouses Across the Country
This year, Everytown led campaigns to defeat dangerous NRA-backed gun proposals in states across the country and in fact – more than 100 gun lobby priority bills were defeated or failed to advance this past legislative session.
- Guns on Campus: Bills that would have forced colleges to allow guns on campus were introduced in 18 states. Sixteen states – AK, AL, AZ, GA, IN, KY, LA, MO, MS, NH, OK, SC, VA, WA, WI and WV – all failed to pass these bills. Tennessee was the only state to pass a bill forcing guns on campus this year, and while it’s a dangerous policy, it is more limited in scope – and the Governor was still not willing to sign his name to it. Legislation that would force guns on campus is still pending in Michigan.
- A specific example worth highlighting is Republican Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of a guns on campus bill, which was a radical departure from his comments earlier in the year when he indicated some support for the policy. After a relentless, 40-day campaign by a coalition of Georgians including Moms, survivors, educators and law enforcement urging Deal to veto, he explained that,“From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time-honored protections should require overwhelming justification. I do not find that such justification exists.”
- Guns in K-12 Schools: Bills to allow guns in K-12 schools were introduced in 15 states. Fourteen states – CO, FL, IA, IL, KY, LA, MD, MS, PA, SC, TN, VA, WA and WI all failed to pass these bills. Legislation that would allow guns in K-12 schools is still pending in Michigan.
- Permitless Carry: Bills that would have dismantled state concealed carry permitting systems and let people carry hidden, loaded handguns in public without a permit or training were introduced in 22 states. Sixteen states – CO, GA, IA, IN, KY, LA, MN, NC, NH, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, UT and VA all failed to pass these bills. Four states – ID, MS, MO and WV – passed permitless carry legislation this year and similar bills are still pending in two states (MI and NJ). Missouri’s permitless carry bill only passed during a special session to override the Governor’s veto.
- Stand Your Ground: New Stand Your Ground legislation was introduced in six states and failed to pass in five – IA, MD, MN, NE and WA. Missouri was the only state to pass this legislation, during a special session to override the Governor’s veto.
Beyond Politics, Our Movement Has Continued Its Exponential Growth and is Working to Create a Culture of Gun Safety in America
- In January, after months of pressure from Moms Demand Action, Facebook responded and changed its policy to prohibit unlicensed gun sales on Facebook and Instagram. We continue to work with Facebook to crack down on unlicensed gun sales on their platforms.
- The second annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day in June brought together more than 700 influencers, corporations, elected officials, organizations and iconic landmarks to #WearOrange, including President Obama, Kim Kardashian West, Steph Curry, Amy Schumer, Viacom, Univision, Vogue and the Empire State Building. The nationwide campaign is a day to remember all victims and survivors of gun violence and to declare that we as a country must do more to reduce gun violence.
- After the mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub during Latin night in Orlando, Americans came together – including by spending the night on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol as Congressional leaders staged a sit-in – to call on our leaders to “Disarm Hate” by working to pass laws that would keep guns out of the hands of hateful people who can use them to kill. In fact, leaders in Congress launched a historic Senate filibuster to demand meaningful legislative action on gun violence prevention. Our supporters participated in 30 Pride marches and made more than 240,000 calls to Congress calling on leaders to end the easy access to firearms that can make hate lethal.
- Corporations continued to stand up for gun safety in 2016, including:
- In January, not even three weeks after Texas implemented its new open carry law requiring businesses to allow handguns to be openly carried in their stores or comply with burdensome signage requirements, more than 400 Texas businesses said “no” and instead stood up for customer and employee safety by prohibiting open carry on their premises;
- In February, after a Moms Demand Action petition, Trader Joe’s reaffirmed its commitment to gun safety in stores across the country by publicizing its “long-standing preference that customers not bring guns into our stores”;
- In April, Greensboro-based The Fresh Market responded to a petition by our North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action and adopted a new gun safety policy asking customers to refrain from bringing firearms into their stores;
- And just last month, the President and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. – a former army officer – took a stand for public safety and requested customers leave their guns at home while shopping in Levi’s stores.
- Since 2014, Everytown and Moms Demand Action chapter volunteers increased the number of active volunteers by 824 percent, the number of volunteer shifts completed by 1,803 percent, and increased the amount of times they reached out to voters in targeted districts by 3,706 percent.
So, What’s Next for Guns in a Potentially NRA-Fueled Trump Administration?
2016 was full of surprises, NRA defeats and lessons learned. But, much like the marriage equality movement, the gun safety movement is about the long game and our grassroots army of volunteers are in this until the end.
When it comes to the election, the NRA poured money into electing Donald Trump and we expect the extremist leadership of the NRA to fight for what they paid for. But President-elect Trump should know that guns were not a determining factor in his victory; Trump won in places where the NRA spent money and he won in places where the gun lobby spent nothing.
Everytown and Moms Demand Action – the counterweight to the NRA – stand firmly opposed to the NRA “guns everywhere, for anyone, no questions asked” agenda including putting guns in schools, repealing gun safety laws and making it legal for dangerous people to carry concealed, loaded weapons everywhere. We’ll be there to hold the line to ensure they don’t undermine the will of the vast majority of Americans – including gun owners and NRA members – who know that Second Amendment rights go hand-in hand with common-sense gun safety measures that save lives.
We know how to be the David to the National Rifle Association’s Goliath – we’ve been taking them on and winning in statehouses across the country. And we’ll continue to bring that fight and our dedication to standing up for public safety to the White House, to Congress and to the states.