COMMENTARY | Moms kiss boo-boos and cut the crusts off sandwiches. They supervise homework and tuck everyone in at night and get everyone to six different places at five different times.
And they change the world.
Candace Lightner lost her daughter to a drunk driver — a repeat offender — in 1980, and the tragedy spurred her to found Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Her group altered the public perception of driving intoxicated. As Lightner notes in her CNN op-ed piece, when she began her grassroots efforts, driving while impaired was not even illegal in some states.
Her group shifted attitudes from public nonchalance about the danger of drinking and driving to near-universal awareness that drinking and driving can, and often does, end in heartbreak.
And now Lightner’s calling for a similar movement with guns, one that will affect a widespread cultural transformation, as MADD has done. It’s a change in how we talk about guns, legislate them and educate.
As you might expect, there are moms already on the case. Moms Demand Action, a national non-profit, was founded in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Started by Shannon Watts at the end of 2012, the group already has a growing string of chapters. Here in Chicago, the local group’s Facebook page, as of the time of this writing, had more than 2,300 “likes.”
The non-partisan Moms Demand Action advocates a tighter approach to gun ownership while acknowledging the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. It’s part of a broader movement changing our cultural relationship to guns, one that isn’t about ostracizing gun owners, but bringing owners and non-owners together to figure out ways to prevent another Newtown tragedy.
Moms aren’t the only parents in the game. Jon Bond of major advertising firm Kirshenbaum & Bond, and his wife Rebecca, an expert in branding, are also parents to three small children, parents who were horrified by Newtown. Reports the New York Times, the couple, partnering with other heavy hitters from the advertising world, founded Evolve, a group that puts gun owners and non-owners on the same side of the million-dollar question: What can we do end gun violence?
The intriguing thing about this big-picture solution is that the bridge-building isn’t just coming from one side of the void. On the social news site Reddit, users created a section specifically to combat the influx of posts dismissing any kind of gun control. Named “GunsAreCool,” it was started by gun owners, who, it seems, would like the term “responsible gun owner” to mean something.
The gears are in place for this shaping of culture. Our need for it is as plain and as obvious and as painful as remembering the slaughter of 20 children at an elementary school and the 2,474 deaths that have happened since.
Just as MADD changed the flow of the tide, the shift in social acceptability of unrestricted gun use, ownership and purchase may start with moms. But we are all part of our culture, creating it as we go along.
In that way, we are all parents to culture, as we have the power to choose social norms and attitudes that make endlessly growing lists of victims unacceptable. It’s difficult to imagine a time when driving drunk carried no social stigma; in the future, we could say the same about purchases without background checks, unlocked guns around children and guns in the hands of the mentally ill.