CircleBumpCheckedFilledMedicalBookmarkBookmarkTickBookmarkAddCheckBoxCheckBoxFilled

Shannon Watts

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder
save article
profile picture of Jaime Buerger
Updated June 1, 2017
Hero Image
Image: LVQ Designs

Shannon Watts had never joined a protest group, signed a petition or even participated in a rally.

Then Sandy Hook happened.

“I just lost it,” Watts says. “I thought, I’m going to be culpable if I don’t do something.” As the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the mom of five (she has four daughters and a son) didn’t just “do something”; she created a movement with 3 million members, 47,000 volunteers and chapters in every state. “What happened was sort of miraculous. It was lightning in a bottle, and it has been ever since.”

Among the group’s major wins in its four-and-a-half-year existence include successfully pressuring major retailers to prevent open carrying of firearms in their stores; banning guns in schools and colleges at the state level; and beating back the expansion of Stand Your Ground laws in four states. “When you show up, when you get off the sidelines and you use your voices and vote, it makes a huge difference,” says Watts, whose organization became part of a broader coalition, Everytown for Gun Safety, in 2013.

The Boulder, Colorado, resident’s efforts have often made her a target of those who vehemently disagree. “There is an underbelly to America that I did not know existed,” she says of the vitriol that has been lobbed at her, both online and off, including threats of sexual violence against her and her daughters. But Watts remains, at her core, a fighter. “We are [a group of] incredibly smart, tough strategists. We’re not going to back down. We are going to do whatever it takes to protect our families.”

The Buck Stops Here

“Six months after Sandy Hook, I found out that Starbucks was going to outlaw smoking 25 feet outside their stores, regardless of state law, but weren’t doing the same when it came to carrying guns inside. We started a campaign, Skip Starbucks Saturdays, that was effective. To protest us, 50 people armed with everything from handguns to semiautomatic rifles showed up to a Starbucks in Iowa, terrifying customers. Within three months, CEO Howard Schultz [issued an open letter and asked customers not to bring guns into their stores].”

Related Video

Helping Hands

“This is like a full-time job, and that is what’s so amazing about our volunteers. These women either are stay-at-home moms or have careers and still figure out a way to carve another week’s work out of their lives. It’s just astounding how committed and dedicated they are. Many of them, like me, have never been affected directly by gun violence; they just want to protect other people and make sure they’re not [either].”

The Path Forward

“Only 19 percent of Congress is female, but it’s encouraging to see more women running for office. Women are taking their advocacy, fund-raising and strategizing skills and parlaying that. They’re like, ‘Okay, wait, I helped shape policy, and now I want to make the policy.’ Even the mayor of Nashville was a Moms Demand Action member. That is incredibly gratifying.”

save article
ADVERTISEMENT

Next on Your Reading List

Victoria Monét and two-year-old daughter Hazel Monét Gaines celebrate their Grammy nominations by indulging in Jimmy John’s Red Velvet Cookies while preparing for the awards show on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California
Victoria Monét and Daughter—The Grammy’s Youngest Nominee—Make History
By Wyndi Kappes
allison holker and family
Allison Holker Boss on Dancing, Resilience and Finding Her New Normal
By Nehal Aggarwal
mom sitting at table at home thinking and pondering
I Was an Accidental SAHM—and I’m Done Feeling Guilty About It
By Kristen Bringe
ADVERTISEMENT
Kristin Davis at the New York Pemiere of "And Just Like That..." A New Chapter of Sex and The City held at MoMA on December 8, 2021 in New York City
Why Moms Are Loving Charlotte's ‘and Just Like That’ Monologue
By Wyndi Kappes
78 Percent of Moms Are Overwhelmed by Pumping at Work
78 Percent of Moms Are Overwhelmed by Pumping at Work
By Wyndi Kappes
mother holding sleeping baby at home
Caregiving Reduces Mom's Lifetime Earnings by 15 Percent, Report Says
By Wyndi Kappes
mother working on laptop while holding baby
These Are the Best States for Working Moms in 2023
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
working mother sitting at home with baby and breast pump
What the PUMP Act Means for Working Parents
By Wyndi Kappes
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hugs his daughter Poppy on the ninth hole during the Par 3 Contest prior to the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5, 2023, in Augusta, Georgia
Kids Take the Masters by Storm Dressed as Adorable Caddies
By Wyndi Kappes
mother wearing baby in wrap while working on laptop at home
Study: Parents Work Longer Hours Than Non-Parents Amid Recession Fears
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
P!nk attends the 2022 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 20, 2022 in Los Angeles, California
Balancing Acts: Pink Shares Her Journey as a Rockstar Mom
By Wyndi Kappes
Sanya Richards Ross and family
Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross on Motherhood and Finding Balance
By Nehal Aggarwal
Reps. Dan Goldman, D-N.Y., Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., Andy Kim, D-N.J., left, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., conduct a news conference to announce the Congressional Dads Caucus outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, January 26, 2023
Congress’ New Dads Caucus Advocates for Working Parents
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
Shonda Rhimes attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 09, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California.
Shonda Rhimes Shares the Secret Behind How She Does It All
By Wyndi Kappes
MommiNation founders talking at fundraiser event
How MommiNation Is Helping to Empower a Community of Black Moms
By Jen Hayes Lee
Rihanna is seen outside the Dior show, during Paris Fashion Week - Womenswear F/W 2022-2023, on March 01, 2022 in Paris, France
Rihanna Says Being a Mom Pushed Her to Perform at the Super Bowl
By Wyndi Kappes
mother working from home with baby on lap
New Report Explores if Remote Work Is Really Working for Parents
By Wyndi Kappes
ADVERTISEMENT
wood desk at the texas state capitol
Moms Are Largely Missing From the Law-Making Arena, New Report Reveals
By Wyndi Kappes
pregnant woman working from home at desk in bedroom
Remote Work May Have Led to a Mini Baby Boom, Study Says
By Wyndi Kappes
gabrielle union and dwyane wade smiling with their daughter
Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade Champion Community at Home and Work
By Ashlee Neuman
ADVERTISEMENT
Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List