For too long, Arkansas lawmakers have been beholden to the gun lobby, and gun-violence prevention policies that are proven to save lives have been ignored. The Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is working to change that.
We are a grassroots movement of volunteers from all walks of life committed to ending gun violence and saving lives. Our state chapter has grown quickly since its founding in 2014. Before the 2017 legislative session, there were only a handful of active volunteers in the state, but we now have hundreds of determined volunteers across Arkansas.
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This year, we dedicated ourselves to electing candidates that pledged to support common-sense gun laws when elected. Gun-sense candidates ran across the state, and seven were elected to serve in the state House of Representatives: Tippi McCullough, Andrew Collins, Charles Blake, Jamie Scott, Denise Garner, Nicole Clowney and Megan Godfrey. Each of these candidates made gun safety a central part of their campaigns. Andrew Collins sent out mailers touting his gun-sense candidate distinction. Denise Garner made gun violence prevention a top priority of her campaign; she even campaigned with us in our red Moms Demand Action T-shirts.
In 2017, after the legislature passed laws allowing concealed guns in places like bars and sporting events and forcing guns on college campuses — including the University of Arkansas, where she teaches — Nicole Clowney founded Fayetteville’s Moms Demand Action chapter. Under her leadership, the Fayetteville Moms Demand Action group quickly became one of the most active in the state and Clowney became one of our most dedicated volunteer leaders.
Denise Garner, a fellow gun-sense candidate, defeated Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville), a four-term incumbent and sponsor of some of the most dangerous gun bills we’ve seen in recent years. She beat him by a staggering 11 percent. Starting this summer in Garner’s district of roughly 18,000 to 20,000 voters, we knocked on over 3,000 doors and made over 8,000 phone calls. We proved time and again that we would show up, sometimes with our kids in tow, to do whatever her campaign needed. The people who worked on her campaign were astonished by the support, passion and energy our volunteers brought to the table.
I spent time campaigning for many of our gun-sense candidates this year, and one of the things that struck me was how eager the voters I talked to were for solutions to gun violence. I talked to people who were sick and tired of worrying about how safe their kids were at school and heartbroken every time they read about the gun violence that kills roughly 96 Americans every day. When I told them there were candidates running in our state who were committed to taking action to save lives, they supported those candidates with their votes.
Our advocacy experience and organizational skills proved to be crucial in pushing these campaigns to victory. Our volunteers showed up day after day to talk to voters about gun-violence prevention and the importance of voting. Whereas candidates once may have felt like they could not talk about gun-sense positions, now candidates are winning because of these positions. In electing gun-sense candidates, voters in Arkansas sent a clear message: We want leaders who will put the safety of our communities first.
Moms Demand Action is excited that we have leaders in the House who will advocate for gun-violence-prevention policies. Their elections show that even in a state like Arkansas, with deep ties to the NRA, slowly but surely we’re changing the culture around gun-violence prevention in our state. And we are just getting started. Text READY to 64433 to join us!
Eve Jorgensen is the volunteer leader with the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.