On December 14, 2012, my ten-year-old daughter was with me on a movie set in Queens. She had just started her winter break, and because I’m privileged and lucky enough to have a job that’s rewarding and adaptive to my family life, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to bring her to work with me. What was out of the ordinary was what happened that day at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A young man walked into an elementary school and shot 20 children and six adults in just minutes.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep the news away from my daughter forever, but I didn’t want her to hear it accidentally. I figured I would tell her when we came home and her brother and father were there. I wanted to explain it and not scare her. But how was I going to tell my young daughter that children were massacred in their classrooms? How could I explain that level of atrocity? So I kept the radio off in the car, the TV off in the trailer. I asked hair and makeup, the crew, and the other actors not to mention it, and we got through the day.
And then we got home. She picked up her newly acquired phone, with her carefully considered and limited number of apps and her monitored Instagram account, and asked, “Mommy, did a bunch of little kids get shot today?”
At that moment, it felt ridiculous to me, and irresponsible as a parent and as a citizen, that I was not doing something to prevent gun violence. Simply keeping the news away from my child was putting my head in the sand. I wasn’t helping her, or anyone else, by doing that. So I decided to learn more. This is what I learned.
An average of 91 people a day are killed by gun violence. That includes children killed by random bullets, mass shootings at workplaces and universities, intimate-partner homicides, and suicides. Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in any other developed nation. More than half are killed by a boyfriend, husband, or someone else in her family. There is a new website, (2), that specifically highlights how America’s lax gun laws put single women at risk.
As these instances have become daily occurrences in American women’s lives, we feel outraged, unsafe, and helpless. Then, just as we call for more regulation, we are drowned out by voices saying that we would all be safer if the “good guys” were armed.
Where guns are concerned, it is not a good-guy-versus-bad-guy argument. It should not be a partisan argument. It should not be a pro-gun-versus-anti-gun argument. It is not an argument about our Constitution. The Second Amendment protects the right of a United States citizen to bear arms. But a gun is a machine. And if you choose to bear arms, you have a responsibility to bear them safely.
And most gun owners agree: A majority of them approve of common-sense gun-safety measures. Around 90 percent of them support universal background checks. A large majority of American citizens believe we need to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals like stalkers and terrorists. Most gun owners keep guns away from children and store them locked and unloaded in their homes. Most gun owners believe in tighter regulations for gun dealers.
A majority of us are on the same side, so why does our country have a gun murder rate 25 times that of other developed countries?
Because our weak gun-safety laws allow guns to end up in the hands of dangerous people. Roughly 40 percent of firearms in the United States are acquired without a background check, so criminals can obtain weapons they shouldn’t have. For example, there is a huge loophole in the federal background-check law that allows abusive boyfriends and stalkers to buy a gun. Studies show that when there’s a gun in (3), the chance that one partner will be killed increases by 20 times.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I believe that gun-safety laws can reduce gun violence, even if they don’t eradicate it, because of the example set by the automobile industry. A car is also a machine. In order to drive it, we require licenses and training. We have added safety features like seatbelts, airbags, collapsible steering columns, and safety glass. We have made car manufacturers beholden to these measures. We have enacted speed limits and criminalized drunk driving. In the process we have reduced the auto fatality rate by nearly 40 percent in just the past 20 years.
Congress is currently deadlocked on the issue of gun-safety rules. So much so that President Obama recently enacted an executive action to reduce gun violence. But where gun-safety laws have really made a difference has been at the state level. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have closed the background-check loophole and require a background check on every gun sold.
In those 18 states, there are half the number of mass shootings, 46 percent fewer intimate-partner gun homicides, 48 percent fewer police gun homicides, and 48 percent fewer firearm suicides. That leaves 32 states that have NOT closed the loophole, and the next logical step is to go to work on changing that. In November, both Nevada and Maine have ballot initiatives where voters will be able to expand background checks and help save lives.
I joined Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization I had long admired for the incredible work that it has done raising awareness and changing regulations, like the background-check loophole. But I wanted to get more of my colleagues involved in this movement too, so I went through my phone and asked everybody I knew (including the amazing Lena Dunham, who then invited me to write this piece) to join the (1), a bunch of actors and artists eager to spread the word and take action against gun violence.
Now I am inviting you to join. Lenny readers are primarily female, and most likely in the United States. As I mentioned earlier, American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than in any other developed nation. That is an abomination, and it is time for common-sense solutions.
Again, I am talking about solutions that are supported by the vast majority of the American people, including gun owners. So please, join me. Join Lena. Join all of us at Everytown. Go to (1) and sign up. We will let you know about big events, important elections, and other easy things you can do to help. We will be so happy to have you. We need you to continue to turn the tide on gun violence. And I know that we can do it together. I don’t ever want to have to explain another Newtown to my kids, and neither should you.
*Julianne Moore is an actor. She lives in New York City with her family.*