After Sandy Hook, we'll never be silent on guns again

Story highlights

  • Shannon Watts: Moms are banding together to change our country's culture of gun violence, and it's working
  • Moms Demand Action have contributed to the defeat of dozens of gun lobby bills in Congress

Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety. The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

(CNN)Three years ago today, I was sitting at my kitchen counter, devastated and outraged by the tragedy that had played out on my television: 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down by a heavily armed gunman in the sanctity of an American elementary school -- Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Shannon Watts
As the day went on, my sadness and anger turned into resolve. I didn't know quite what to do, but I knew I had to do something to prevent this from happening to my children or to anyone's children.
At the time, I was a stay-at-home mom of five living in Indianapolis. Because I had no experience in politics or activism, my first instinct was to look for an existing organization of women taking on the issue of gun violence in America, but my search turned up empty. Where was the Mothers Against Drunk Driving of gun violence prevention?
    I decided to try and reach out to other American moms who I knew in my gut were feeling the same way as I was. I opened my laptop in my kitchen and started a Facebook page. That day, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was born.
    Fast forward to 2015: Joined now with Everytown for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Moms Demand Action is part of the largest grassroots gun violence prevention organization in the country Our movement includes nearly 3.5 million volunteers and supporters more than 85,000 donors and a chapter in every state.
    Despite our amazing success, after mass shootings such as the one in San Bernardino (the deadliest since Sandy Hook), people often ask why I volunteer my time to the issue of gun safety given that "nothing has changed since the Sandy Hook shooting." To this I say, something DID happen: Moms happened. And what we've managed to accomplish in just three years is nothing short of remarkable.
    Moms are changing our country's culture of gun violence by pushing back against the gun lobby's dangerous "guns for anyone, anytime, anywhere" agenda.
    We're educating Americans -- gun owners and nongun owners alike -- about responsible gun storage through our Be SMART campaign.
    Because more than 2 million American children live in homes with unsecured guns, according to Everytown's analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we have an opportunity to reduce unintentional shootings by children who get their hands on guns because of adult negligence. Since launching Be SMART last year, we've already partnered with the PTA and held more than 450 Be SMART educational events across the country.
    We've pressured major retailers and restaurant chains such as Target, Starbucks, Chipotle, Sonic, Chili's and Jack in the Box to establish gun sense policies and prohibit the open carry of guns in their locations. We persuaded Facebook and Instagram to monitor gun advertising and promotions on their platforms more closely.
    And since Congress has refused to act to end gun violence, Moms have taken the fight for new and stronger gun laws to the states -- and we are winning.
    Since Sandy Hook, six states have passed background check laws. In 2015, nine states have enacted legislation to protect victims of domestic violence by keeping guns out of the hands of their abusers. We're playing defense, too: this year we helped defeat 64 gun lobby priority bills, including bills that would have forced guns into schools and bills that would have let people carry concealed, loaded handguns in public with no permit and no training.
    The NRA used to have the statehouses to themselves, but no more. Moms are sending a clear message that we will be there each and every time a gun lobbyist attempts to pick apart important gun laws that protect our families and communities.
    Together with Everytown, Moms are changing the political calculus and putting politicians on notice. The gun violence issue is no longer a political third rail: it is a winning issue that some candidates are embracing rather than avoiding. That's because Moms are showing up in numbers at town halls, debates and other political events to send politicians a clear message: We are a force to be reckoned with, and we demand that gun violence prevention be a political priority.
    And every day, more and more Americans are standing with us, pledging to vote only for candidates who have a solid plan to address gun violence in America.
    So, if anyone tells you nothing can be done about gun violence, let them know how much has been achieved in just three years. Remind them that progress, especially on a tough issue, does not happen overnight. And tell them that after Sandy Hook, American mothers will never be silent again.
    Together, we can end gun violence.