In late July, more than 200 gun violence prevention activists came together in Minneapolis to become stronger activists, organizers, and leaders. Some have asked me about what occurred at the annual Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gathering, and I touched on some of what went on in a previous post on Medium, but I have not fully summarized what took place until now. Articulating the event in its entirety isn’t exactly possible, given the emotional nature of this experience and its sheer scope, but here are some important takeaways.
First, this was the second such event to have occurred, the previous having been held in Denver one year ago. Presumably, this will be an experience that will continue for as many years as are necessary. It’s a bittersweet paradox, knowing how wonderful the people I met in Minneapolis are but also knowing the context through which we met, and will continue to meet.
Second, the event largely consisted of staggered group trainings, with an emphasis on broader topics such as leadership, organizing, and messaging, as well as more refined legislative strategies and discussion as to why this work is so important.
Third, there were a generous number of speakers and panels that excellently balanced time in the ‘classroom’ with inspirational and motivating dialogue. These ranged from a panel of survivors led by Shannon Watts, to Virginia Tech survivor and Everytown activist Colin Goddard sharing his story, to a Q&A with Jordan Davis’ mother and Moms Demand Action activist Lucy McBath. Events such as these are the segments I most vividly remember, but also the hardest to describe. The impact of hearing from survivors and family members of survivors is hard to articulate, but the motivation I felt afterwards was palpable. I hope in the future I’ll see more Millennials at Gun Sense University (but certainly not less of Generation X, Baby Boomers, and so forth) so they too can have the profound experience I did.
In all, Gun Sense University was an experience I will never forget. It provided me with a much-needed injection of optimism and hope for the future of the gun violence prevention movement. Richard Martinez, father of a victim of the shooting in Isla Vista last year, perhaps said it best when he compared our efforts to the skirmish between David and Goliath. He told us our opposition may have certain advantages, but polls (and common sense) tell us that the American people are on our side.
For those who are troubled by the state of American gun violence, and want to stay in the loop on our efforts, and/or work with us to fight for the implementation of common sense gun laws, I’d encourage you to join the Generation Progress Gun Violence Prevention Network.