"There are way more people who are on the side of gun sense than not. The more you talk about it, the less afraid you are to talk about it " - Maggie Conway
by Kathy Magnuson
One of Maggie Conway's biggest takeaways from the last few months working with Moms Demand Action is that "there are way more people who are on the side of gun sense than not. The more you talk about it, the less afraid you are to talk about it."
Conway grew up in Nebraska in a gun-friendly and hunter-friendly culture where guns were regularly out in the open in her friends' homes. But even as a kid she was never comfortable with that.
Now she's a mom in Minneapolis. When the school shooting in Sandy Hook happened, her son was the same age as many of those victims. She became more vocal about the current gun culture.
"It was like tragedy after tragedy after tragedy," she says. About six months ago she learned about Moms Demand Action. "I decided that I just had enough. I have time. I have a willingness to try to effect change. I want to help the momentum [about gun violence prevention] grow. It's a big deal."
Conway signed up online, attended a meeting, and rallied her friends by hosting a house party to engage them around gun safety especially when children are involved. The Be SMART for kids campaign of Moms Demand Action provided resources to practice ways to ask about potential dangers, including un-secured weapons, where their children play.
"Because of Minnesota Nice you can feel confrontational even if you are not," Conway says. "People can get defensive, so it is helpful to know how to ask and to have tips about how to have the conversations."
At the house party they did role playing and practiced how to ask about safety in the home, such as, "Thanks for the invitation for my daughter to come over. I have a few questions. Do you have dogs in your home? (If your child is afraid of dogs or allergic to dogs.)" "Do you have a trampoline? Does it have safety sides?" "Do you have guns in the home? If so, are they locked and is the ammunition locked separately?"
In addition to house parties, a tool kit provided by Moms Demand Action makes it easy to set up a presentation for school groups, faith communities, professional organizations or other groups about gun safety in the home and preventing suicide by gun. It includes invitations, informational handouts and more. A person can be trained to present the material or Moms Demand Action volunteers will attend.
During Conway's house party, they received the news of the shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. It added urgency to their conversations.
"We cannot act fast enough. We have to make this happen now," Conway says.
As she has had more conversations about gun violence prevention with parents, neighbors and family members, Conroy has found that when she asks questions in a conversational way others see that they can, too. "It helps people to realize that it is okay to ask questions."
Conway is planning a second house party, this time to focus on direct actions, such as rally day at the state Capitol, and support to legislative candidates who take action for change in the next session.
Her neighbor is planning a house party, too, with a different network of friends. "I think this effort will snowball," Conway says.