Recently, my picture appeared in the pages of the Star Tribune, but my words did not. You see, I had brought my family to our local Target store to deliver a petition that I and almost 4,000 Minnesotans signed, asking Target to not allow its customers to bring in openly carried long guns such as rifles.
It was when I was delivering the signed petitions that a photographer captured an image of me speaking to the media representatives who were present and interviewing me, and that photograph was published on June 12.
I think it is important now to talk to readers directly about why I was there that morning, and to clear up any confusion or questions about who I am, how I got to that point and who we all are as members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
I am a volunteer with the Minnesota chapter of the Moms Demand Action national organization. Like the mom who founded our organization after the tragedy of Sandy Hook, I have not been personally touched by gun violence, but I am affected by its threat to the safety of my school-aged children. I am the type of mom who believes that if you want something done, you do it yourself — and really, is there any other type?
When I saw pictures of armed men in the toy aisle of a Target store, so did my children. And I had to explain to them that this was real, that it was happening in Targets all over the country, from Texas to the Midwest, but that Target wasn’t doing anything to stop it — yet.
It was at that moment that I became active. I signed the Moms Demand Action petition that was circulating, and I asked our Minnesota chapter leader if we should deliver that petition to Target. Similar petitions from other moms (and dads) happened just like this all over the county. There were many of us who did this. We came up with the idea, and we did it. It was grass-roots activism at its simplest. We have a long and healthy history of this here in Minnesota.
And it worked. Target took a stand and said “please leave your guns at home” to its customers. I applaud that!
I feel it is important to acknowledge that Moms Demand Action is a growing movement of moms who are fed up with hearing tragedy in the news. We are individuals making phone calls, snapping pictures of ourselves and posting online when we are doing true activism; we are signing petitions and pledging to vote with gun sense so that our voices can be united and counted.
I was not trained in how to talk to the media about gun safety — but that day, just like many other days not in front of a camera, I spoke about keeping my boys safe, and about my sadness that they have to go through Code Red trainings at their school. I believe in an America that is safer than this.
This is why I volunteer. This is why I spend time in front of a computer on a beautiful summer day writing this article — because our kids deserve to live in a world that is free from gun violence.
And it is the little steps along the way — the local moms, dads, teachers, faith leaders, law enforcement and other leaders who will lead us there. Gun safety, safe storage, gun education, proper licensing, background checks for all gun sales, responsible parenting and responsible gun ownership are all baby steps along the path to making this a safer place for our kids.
So, thank you to the Star Tribune for snapping my picture and putting it in its pages. I hope that when readers see a mom out there tabling at a community event this summer or fall, they will remember that we are giving of our time, our energy, and ourselves because we believe the small conversations we have at these events make a difference. When I talk with my friends and neighbors (and local politicians) about gun sense issues — the ways to keep our kids safe, I speak from the heart.
Leah Auckenthaler is events lead for the Minnesota Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.