How to fight gun violence in Trump’s America

We must double down on grassroots, community activism. Even with Trump in office, women can and must organize to end gun violence. This article is part of 50.50's coverage of the 2017 Nobel Women's Initiative conference.

Sarah Clements
12 May 2017

Mothers at a rally against gun violence, Philadelphia 2016.

Mothers at a rally against gun violence, Philadelphia 2016. PA Images. All rights reserved.

Somewhere at the intersection of gender and violence in the United States falls gun violence. Five women are killed with guns every day in the US, according to a 2014 Center for American Progress report. Between 2001 and 2012 more than 6,400 women were killed by intimate partners using guns — more than the total number of US troops killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Furthermore, women in the US are 11 times more likely to die this way than women in other high-income countries.

These staggering statistics might take your breath away, but each has its own story — of domestic violence, a mass shooting, homicide on the street corner, or suicide. The whole world hears about the biggest mass shootings — Aurora, Charleston, Newtown, and Orlando. But the majority of gun violence happens on this daily basis, barely even making the local nightly news.

The 2017 Nobel Women’s Initiative conference is themed “The Global Feminist Resistance: Evolution and Revolution — Adapting to Survive Thrive.” In the US, we are indeed seeing a growing feminist resistance, fueled in part by grief, confusion, and anger at the reign of Donald Trump. For those who work on gun violence prevention, reproductive justice, immigration, or climate change, there is a simultaneous feeling of urgency and fear. These issues are more pressing than ever. But we fear that Trump will not only undo what President Obama’s administration accomplished, but that he will move us even further backwards.

...there is a simultaneous feeling of urgency and fear.

What does this mean for gun violence prevention advocates? We must double down on community-based, grassroots solutions to keeping our communities safe. In Trump’s America, and with this Congress, there is likely no way we will get progressive gun reform legislation passed at the national level. We must put the energy, resources, and investment into activists working on the ground in communities most deeply-impacted by this violence.

The feminist resistance in the US is bolstered by strong protest crowds, women running for office, and phenomenal groups working outside of established institutions to build grassroots power. Groups such as the Women’s March and Indivisible are changing the activism landscape, and their messages include the need to organize for gun reform and measures that will reduce violence in our communities.

Activists who have been jolted to action by shooting after shooting are helping to mobilize people in all 50 states who attend town hall meetings, work on campaigns, and lobby for common sense gun legislation. In the years since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook, while Congress has mostly remained at a standstill on the issue, a number of states have passed comprehensive gun bills.

This trend of state-based successes -- often led by women advocates -- should give us hope and a blueprint for how we ought to act in the era of Trump.

Mothers and daughters who have lost loved ones to gun violence, or who survived such violence themselves, have been at the forefront of movements to end it. Groups like Moms Demand Action and Million Moms March, as well as local organizations like Boston’s LIPSTICK, are leading grassroots forces organising for change. On top of the uphill battle these women face as organizers, and on top of trauma from personal experiences with gun violence, they too often also face harassment and threats online, on Twitter, and even at public events.

Ending gun violence is a feminist issue and women can and must continue to lead this struggle.

In the worst cases, toxic masculinity, obsession with guns, and our culture of violence coalesce. Mass shootings sometimes have roots in domestic abuse. In my hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, the shooter who killed 20 first grade students and six women educators at my former elementary school, and my mother’s place of work, Sandy Hook School, began his unspeakable rampage at home, where he abused and killed his own mother. The shootings in Lafayette, Isla Vista, Houston, and more, were also preceded by domestic violence.

Ending gun violence is a feminist issue and women can and must continue to lead this struggle. By investing in women of color, women living in poverty and in communities most deeply impacted by gun violence, and by highlighting in our work the ways in which gun violence intersects with other “issues,” from domestic violence to poverty to immigration, we can lay the groundwork for a more comprehensive, sustainable, and effective fight against gun violence, even in Trump’s America.

The Nobel Women's Initiative conference takes place in Germany 13-16 May. Follow 50.50's coverage of the event.

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