The following are remarks as delivered for Mike Bloomberg’s speech at the Moms Demand Action “Gun Sense University 2018” convening in Atlanta, GA.
This really is an impressive group here this morning: More than 1,000 moms, dads, survivors, and volunteers from all across the country – from cities and towns of all sizes, in both red states and blue states, big states, small states. We just can’t walk away. We have to do something about it and you are the ones that are going to accomplish it.
I’ve worked on the issue of gun violence for more than a decade and I have never seen more energy behind the movement than there is right now – and all of you deserve an enormous amount of credit for that. This is a movement taking over the country and we are going to win this battle. People say you can’t make change, but we’ve made a lot of changes in this country, most of them for the better, and it is when the American people stand up and say to their elected officials, ‘This is what’s right, this is what we want — and you vote this way or we’re going to vote you out.’
To put things in perspective: When Moms Demand Action was starting out five years ago, I think it’s fair to say that our movement to protect people from gun violence had hit a low point. The mass murder of 26 young children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School shocked the nation.
Despite our best efforts, and despite the fact that 90 percent of Americans agreed with us, neither house of Congress took any action. It was a sad moment for our country – but it also became a turning point.
Millions of people around the country asked themselves: Could this happen at my child’s school? Or in my community? The answer, tragically, was yes. That is a terrible thought for any parent – and I know that, for many of you, it is not just a thought. It’s a daily reality.
Now, when Congress refused to act after Sandy Hook, a lot of pundits – and a lot of politicians – thought the NRA was invincible. Ever since 1994, they had blocked any serious major gun safety legislation. But throughout all that time, there was no organization big enough and organized enough to go toe-to-toe with them. But now, thanks to all of you, there is.
The truth is: The American people have always favored common-sense gun regulations – but that wasn’t enough. We needed Americans to demand action – and to put in the time and energy to achieve it. That’s what Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety have been doing for the past five years, and together, we’ve shown that the NRA is not invincible. Far from it.
Think about this: Over the past five years more than half of all states have passed laws to keep guns from domestic abusers. And 11 states have adopted or expanded gun-sale background checks, beyond federal law. As a result, half of all Americans live in a state with a background check law that is stronger than the federal law. And just since the Parkland shooting, 18 states have passed gun safety legislation. Half of those states have Republican governors. So all of you really are changing the political calculus on this issue, state by state.
Now, we haven’t knocked out the NRA – not by a longshot. But we’ve landed some big punches. And while they’re on the ropes, we’re getting stronger and stronger.
We’re here in Atlanta to take our fight to the next level – and that includes electing more candidates to office who will stand with us. We have to send a message that there is a price to pay for standing with the gun lobby instead of the American people.
I’m doing my part to support ‘gun sense’ candidates this November – and I know all of you are committed to doing that, too. Some of you are going even further, by running for office, which is great to see.
I didn’t spend most of my career in politics, but I decided to run for office because I thought I could make a difference – and I was tired of hearing excuses for why fixable problems weren’t getting solved.
Running for office isn’t easy. But I can just tell you that if you believe in something, you will never regret it. And don’t let the naysayers stop you.
When I first ran for mayor of New York, almost no one thought I had a chance. I’m not even sure my mother thought I had a chance. But I believed in what I was doing – and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Last year, about a dozen Moms Demand members ran for office. This year, that number is closer to 50. That includes one running for Congress here in Atlanta, Lucy McBath. She won the primary in an upset – and anyone who counts her out in the general election is making a big mistake. I’m glad to say that Lucy is part of a growing trend.
This fall, ‘gun sense’ leaders will move into jobs in city halls and state-houses around the country – and over the next couple of days, I hope more of you will decide to take that step. There really is nothing more rewarding than serving the public and getting the chance to make your community safer and stronger.
Of course, you don’t have to run for office to make a difference – and this weekend is a chance for everyone here to listen and learn from one another, and it’s also a chance to highlight some of the most effective work happening around the country.
Tomorrow night, Moms Demand will hand out the second annual Sue Brooks Award. As many of you know, Sue was a retired principal and the founder of her local Moms Demand Action chapter in Nevada. In 2016, she was instrumental in helping pass the gun safety ballot initiative in Nevada. Sue won so many voters over to our side, even as she battled brain cancer. She died just days after the election – but the work she started continues and the example she set has led so many others to follow in her footsteps, including tomorrow’s nominees.
I won’t give away who will take home the award. But, I will say – everyone nominated shows the kind of commitment that powers this entire organization. And all of them – and all of you – are helping to save lives every day.
Let me just close by saying that, five years ago, very few people believed we could come this far, this fast – and a lot of the credit goes to a mother of five from Indiana, Shannon Watts. Since she first posted a Facebook page after Sandy Hook, Shannon has thrown her heart and soul into this work. Because of her – and all of you – the ‘gun sense’ movement is stronger and more effective than ever, and communities are safer from the threat of gun violence.
So please join me in welcoming my friend, and the unstoppable founder of Moms Demand Action, Shannon Watts.