Grassroots organizations nationwide push for 'common sense gun laws' to prevent mass shootings

Across the country, a number of organizations are pushing for "common sense gun laws" to prevent mass shootings like the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas.

The death toll continues to climb in Texas following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. The deceased children are said to be 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders, approximately 7, 8 and 9-year-olds.

The shooter, identified as an 18-year-old student at a local high school, was also killed. 

Moms Demand Action is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. It was founded by Shannon Watts, a mother of five. The day after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Watts started a Facebook group with the message that all Americans can and should do more to reduce gun violence. The online conversation turned into a movement with chapters in every state.

"We are slowly but surely making changes at the local level, at the state level, school boards, city councils, passing our solutions, pushing back against bad gun laws," said Celeste Perron, a volunteer with the organization.

Perron is a mother of two teenagers, and like many Americans, is upset about the shooting in Texas.

"I'm absolutely heartbroken. I'm so angry, and also I can't say that I'm surprised because we have not changed gun laws significantly since Sandy Hook happened almost 10 years ago and there's so much more that we should be and can be doing to keep our children and communities safe and many lawmakers just refuse to do it," said Perron.

Uvalde, Texas elementary school shooting

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Perron said the shootings are preventable.

"We know what works. We know that background checks on every gun sale work. We know that red flag laws work. We know sending home information with parents, educating them about safe storage of guns works. We don't have to make guns illegal to dramatically reduce violence and save lives," she said.

Perron also described the Texas shooting as a racial justice issue.

"This was a predominantly Latinx community and people in the Latinx community are really disproportionately impacted by gun violence. It is maddening. If you are a governor, if you are a senator, what is more important than keeping your children safe? You should be moving heaven and earth to do what needs to be done to keep children safe in their schools," she said.

Daniel Webster, the Co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, studies all aspects of gun violence and strategies to prevent it along with a team of researchers. The organization's mission is to reduce gun violence in the U.S. using public health and evidence.

"Most countries do not have a problem with fatal mass shootings. Most countries do not have anywhere close to the rates of homicides that we do. It's driven principally, not because we are an incredibly violent society, though we are violent, but it's because we have decided to make guns readily available to almost anyone and our interests seem to be more protecting those who sell weapons and want to own them as opposed to the broader public," said Webster.

He said the common belief that nothing has changed since Sandy Hook is not entirely true. Research from the Giffords Law Center shows more than 280 new gun safety laws have been enacted in 45 states and Washington, D.C. since the Sandy Hook shooting.

"In response to Sandy Hook, there have actually been a lot of changes, not all of them good. Many see acts of violence of this nature like Sandy Hook or the Parkland shooting and their conclusion is the only way we're gonna fix this is more people having guns to shoot it out and so they changed their laws to allow more teachers to have guns in schools and more civilians with guns. That was their solution. There are other states that went in the other direction and passed stronger laws. Lots of changes are occurring, not just with gun laws but also with investments in community violence intervention programs," said Webster.

Webster believes the main issue is the lack of gun control.

"I don't want to put everything down to lack of gun control but I think that's far and away the principle difference. If you go to other nations, they're far more restrictive. Virtually all of them have some sort of licensing system as I said when our states do that, we do find substantially lower rates of gun violence," he said.

Webster said it's important to not classify mass shootings as solely a mental health problem.

"Immediately they say the only way they [mass shooters] can do that is if they're mentally ill. The truth of the matter is the large majority of people who commit mass shootings are not mentally ill. They may not be completely mentally well, but they don't really have a psychiatric disorder. They may be honestly hate-filled. They may have grievances. They may have substance abuse problems. They may have a host of problems but we very quickly go to this narrative of it had to be this person was mentally ill and that stigmatizes a large group of Americans who cope with mental illnesses and there's not a strong relation to mental illness and violence," he said.

The gunman was a resident of the community and entered the school with a handgun, and possibly a rifle, and opened fire, according to investigators. Authorities said the shooter was likely killed by responding officers but that the events were still being investigated.

The motive for the shooting is not known.