On Sandy Hook anniversary, gun safety advocates try something new

Birmingham, AL - Five years after 20 children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary, a new technique to bring about gun safety reform is taking hold.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a non-profit that works to prevent gun violence. It was formed immediately following the tragedy, and for the past five years it's volunteers have been pushing elected officials both at the local and federal level to make changes to make guns safer.

But in 2017, those volunteers started doing something different: running for office themselves.

Moms Demand Action representatives say that in 2017 nine of their volunteers won seats in local elections around the country. But for next year, over a dozen have already announced plans to run — with potentially hundreds more getting ready to throw their hat in the rings.

"With a few years of experience under our belt we began to look around and realized that the best qualified people to move this issue forward were ourselves," said Amber Gustafson, a stay at home mom from Iowa. "And we began to think, why can’t we run?"

She's running for state senate in her home district, just outside of Des Moines.

"Being exposed to the legislative process in our state and on federal level has helped us realize there's really nothing magical about legislation and that anybody can be part of the process of helping to shape the future of their state or their country," she said.

Gustafson and her husband said they are proud gun-owners themselves — and support second amendment rights — a fact she says can help her gun reform positions come off as "less threatening" to fellow gun owners she's trying to persuade.

"The majority of the people who own guns in this country support good gun laws," she said. "They just need more people to stand up and say 'Yes, we can have good gun laws, yes, we can have second amendment freedoms. Those things are not mutually exclusive.'"

She believes their path to change peoples' minds on gun control will be similar to the one fought by marriage equality advocates in the wake of marriage becoming the law of the land for LGBT people, when opinions changed when they realized they had friends and family who were gay.

"Even in a state as conservative as Iowa, when people begin to realize the humanity of their peers they begin to realize there needs to be steps taken to fix problems in the law. So that’s where we want to start — with those everyday conversations that we can have with our neighbors," she said. 

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