The Hamblen County Federation of Democratic Women discussed gun violence at its monthly luncheon at The Country Club in Morristown.
Jessica Joyner, state social media leader for the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action addressed the members as the guest speaker, discussing a wide range of topics dedicated to gun violence – and how to undo the damage it causes.
“By February of this year, this country has lost more people to gun violence than most of the wealthy and developed countries have in one entire year – and we still had 10 months to go,” said Joyner, a resident of Johnson City. “This is uniquely an American problem.”
Joyner also said gun violence affects every neighborhood, from wealthy suburbs to the inner cities to rural areas – and the most vulnerable are most affected.
“Gun violence exists everywhere. No community is safe,” she said. “It’s more than just mass shootings, and it’s impacting children at higher rates than just a decade ago.”
Moms Demand Action is a nonpartisan organization founded by Shannon Watts, who started a Facebook page after the Sandy Hook mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012.
It is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence, promoting gun safety, “extreme risk” laws and holistic school safety programs, and has a chapter in every state.
The organization also opposes arming teachers and other school staff members who are not already licensed to carry firearms, such as school resource officers, as well as any bill that weakens state laws on obtain permits to own and carry weapons.
One of the projects Moms Demand Action supports is the BeSMART program, which is intending to protect kids by advising responsible gun ownership by securing all weapons in homes and vehicles, showing model behavior around guns, asking questions about the presence of unsecured guns in homes parents and their children might visit, recognize the role of guns in suicides and telling peers to be smart. According to Joyner, Tennessee and Texas lead the nation in unintentional shootings, many involving children who get their hands on unsecured weapons.
Another piece of the organization’s 2020 legislative agenda is the passing of “red flag,” or “extreme risk” laws, which allows family members and law enforcement to quickly investigate and intervene during times of crisis, and seize weapons utilizing due process. Times of crisis include documented thoughts of suicide, domestic violence, stalking, or a mass shooting.
Despite being in favor of “common sense gun control,” Joyner said Moms Demand Action wholeheartedly supports the Second Amendment.
“I’m a gun owner, but I believe in safe storage and responsible gun ownership,” she said.
Joyner said the mass shootings of the last two decades prompted her to join the organization.
“I joined Moms Demand Action after the Pulse nightclub shooting (in Orlando, Florida in 2016),” she said. “I remember Columbine (in 1999), and I was a teacher during Sandy Hook.
“Enough was enough.”
After a recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, many department and grocery chains have changed their policies on customers openly carrying weapons in their stores, and the organization had a role in the change.
“Since the El Paso shooting, several chains like Wal-Mart, Aldi, Kroger and Target have asked customers not to carry guns openly in their stores,” Joyner said. “People can still carry weapons with a concealed permit, but as a mother, I don’t want to see someone carrying a gun to intimidate others.
“My kids throw blueberries and strawberries. I don’t want my small children to make the wrong person mad, especially if that person is carrying a gun.”
Joyner also shared her frustration with the standard rationale of the causes of mass shooting nationwide.
“Everytime there’s a mass shooting, video games and mental health issues are always brought up,” she said. “They don’t play video games in France (which has stricter laws for gun possession)?”
Joyner also said gun violence is definitely not limited to just mass shootings. Gun violence also affects the inner cities at disproportionate rates, a topic not often discussed enough among gun control advocates, she said.
“A lot of people don’t want to acknowledge this, but (Moms Demand Action) does acknowledge (gun violence among African-American males),” Joyner said. “(The United States) doesn’t want to be known for any of these things.”
Though Joyner addressed the HCFDW, she said she would be more than happy to have the same discussion with those on the opposite side of the political aisle.
“We’re nonpartisan. You need people on the right as well as the left. Bullets don’t discriminate,” she said. “I would love to have this talk with the Republican Women’s group (in Hamblen County).”