Standing up for our communities

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Ongoing gun violence in the United States has galvanized women in ways few issues have in recent times. After the horrific tragedy in Tucson that almost took her life, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords stepped up to the plate to demand better gun control. Along with her husband astronaut Mark Kelly, Gabby founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, the first political action committee to support lawmakers willing to advance responsible gun policies.

Standing beside Gabby, there are thousands of women—mothers, sisters, wives, and friends—who have stepped into the limelight and demanded change. These women are fierce and brave. Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, a grassroots effort launched the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, has grown to 80,000 members and 80 chapters in just over two months. On March 13 they will converge in Washington, D.C. to “take the Hill” and demand immediate action on commonsense gun laws.

This Women’s History Month, we are recognizing these types of contributions that women from all walks of life make every day. By becoming involved, many of them have turned deeply intimate and often painful experiences into collective action that is both positive and transformative.

I identify with all of them because, for me, gun violence is both a personal and a public issue. My city of Chicago is too familiar with gun violence and so am I. Years ago, my uncle was catching up with the corner store owner who had just sold him milk when two gang members rushed in and killed both on the spot. When my daughter was six years old, we were caught in crossfire on our way to buy some ice cream. I threw her on the ground next to a car and shielded her with my body until the danger passed. It was scary, and it was rough.

More recently my city became the source of unwelcomed news when 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down in her neighborhood a week after performing at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration with her high school’s majorette team.

President Obama has proposed a series of initiatives to combat gun violence nationwide, because no locality can protect itself from gun violence by going at it alone. His proposal includes universal background checks, banning military-style assault weapons, and limiting gun magazine capacity.

As a state senator, this is an approach that I have supported and will continue to support. Passing these laws won’t threaten our right to bear arms—but not passing them will threaten the safety of our neighborhoods and families. This Women’s History Month, I salute the women who have joined me in this cause and urge many more to do the same.