Content warnings: firearms, guns, gun related injuries and deaths, mention of suicide.
Mental health is influenced by an almost infinite number of factors, and one foundational aspect of mental health is physical safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s most recent available data, “every day, 120 Americans are killed with guns.” When there is an epidemic of gun violence that touches every aspect of daily life, a baseline of safety is impossible. Nowhere can be considered safe. When mass casualty events occur at elementary schools, grocery stores, movie theatres, work places, and even inside the home, the concept of safety is fundamentally in jeopardy. One of the organisations working to change this epidemic of gun related deaths is Everytown for Gun Safety.
On May 27th, 2022, in response to the shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Harry Styles announced via an Instagram post captioned, “End gun violence.” that proceeds from the North American leg of HSLOT would be donated to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund to promote their work. In full, the first text slide of the post reads, “Along with all of you, I have been absolutely devastated by the recent string of mass shootings in America, culminating at the latest in Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. On our North American tour, we will be partnering with Everytown who work to end gun violence, donating to support their efforts, and sharing their suggested action items. Love, H.” Harry also quoted a statement from the Everytown website on the second slide reading, “Firearms are the #1 leading cause of death for American children and teens.” In total, more than $1 million was donated to Everytown by Harry and Live Nation (who matched the proceeds from the shows), and awareness of the organisation was expanded through messaging before and during the shows. For example, during the shows in Austin, the Moody Center donated $100,000 and left T-shirts for each concert attendee. Because of this partnership between Harry and Everytown, I thought it was important to highlight for the fandom the work that Everytown does, why they are so essential, and how to become involved with their work.
Everytown for Gun Safety was founded in 2013, with the combination of two separate groups: Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Michael Bloomberg is one of the founders of MAIG, and he stated that, “Everytown was founded to match the NRA in political influence.” Everytown advocates at all levels of government for stricter gun safety laws, they support political candidates who have a commitment to passing gun safety legislation, they perform research and gather data about gun related deaths and injuries, they provide legal services to some victims of gun violence, and many other overlapping efforts. Their reach is both local and broad, working as a grassroots organisation with connections at every level of government. The issues that Everytown addresses include: community safety, school safety, gun safety in the home, access to and ownership of firearms, and accountability for the industry (each of these issues can be seen in much greater depth on the Everytown website). Some of the solutions proposed by Everytown are increased background checks for purchase/sale of firearms, implementation of extreme risk laws, a repeal of the immunity granted to the gun industry, and more secure gun storage for those who do own personal firearms.
The work that Everytown is responsible for is crucial for gun safety in several different ways. Everytown is one of the few organisations making a concerted effort to gather accurate and publicly available information about gun related injuries and deaths. As of mid-April 2023, more than 11,500 people have died from gun related injuries in the United States, averaging about 115 gun related deaths per day so far this calendar year. More than half of those deaths were from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, i.e. suicide. There have also been more than 140 mass-casualty events (4 or more victims per incident) with a firearm used as the primary weapon. For comparison, in the United States, there is an average of 101 deaths each day due to a motor vehicle crash. I don’t believe that data and statistics tell the entire story, but I find that when discussing gun safety with friends and family, they are shocked to know the numbers are this high. There has been a targeted effort by the NRA to make collecting and reporting of firearm related violence data very difficult, with lobbying for legislation including the Dickey Amendment. Passed in 1996, the Dickey Amendment made it illegal for the CDC to use its funding to advocate or promote gun control. This is one of the places where Everytown has been able to fill that gap in information. Beginning in 2019, the CDC was granted funds for “firearm injury and mortality prevention research,” but the gap in research funding is still wide. Gun violence is a multi-factor issue, and the research is still in its beginning years. The 20 year gap of information caused by the Dickey Amendment has led to wide-spread disinformation and lack of awareness concerning gun safety.
Additionally, Everytown is one of a handful of organisations that focus on gun safety legislation at all levels of government. A few other groups involved in this work include March For Our Lives, The Brady Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. It’s worth noting that a majority of United States residents support stricter gun laws and universal background checks. Multiple polls and studies have been done with an average of about 70% of United States residents in favour of increased gun safety measures. It’s important to recognise this majority, especially as this is not reflected in the legislation at the state or federal level. This is where groups like Everytown step in to advocate for this majority, making sure that the voice in support of increased safety measures is present when the discussions and debates about these laws are being held. And, as a well known gun safety organisation, Everytown is responsible for education and awareness of all manner of gun related news and more general background information. They have been able to use their influence to apply the research and data gathered to advocate for well informed, necessary changes to every level of gun safety work.
To get involved with Everytown, there are many options available to you. If you’d like to follow in Harry’s footsteps, they accept direct monetary donations to the organisation through their website. You could host a fundraising event in your community to combine both advocacy for their work and a larger donation. They ask for volunteers for their phone bank and for community events. And one of the easiest, and free, ways to support their work is to contact your government representatives demanding action on gun control measures. All public representatives are required to have their contact information available to their constituents, so you have the option of calling, emailing, or even writing physical letters to express your support for the work of Everytown. There are many ways to get involved, and if you visit everytown.org/actions you can learn more about each of the volunteer opportunities.