Gun Control Activist Shannon Watts Teaches Women How to Fight Like a Mother

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From left: Kendrick Sampson, Shannon Watts and Sophia Bush

“I know that if I lose my children I have nothing left to lose, so I’m not going to be silenced and intimidated and our volunteers won’t be,” Watts told The Hollywood Reporter about refusing to back down, even in the face of threats from the National Rifle Association.

Channing Dungey, Jaime King, Brooklyn Decker and Lyndsy Fonseca joined hundreds of women and a few men at the Brentwood home of Mary Alice Haney Davidoff to hear from gun control activist Shannon Watts and to celebrate the release of her new book Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World.

Watts founded the group Moms Demand Action in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre as a way to fight for smarter gun control policies and counter the influence of the National Rifle Association. Starting from her kitchen table, she has since grown the group into a powerful organization that has successfully defeated pro-gun laws in state houses all over America.

Watts recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter to detail what it's like to be a leader of an influential grassroots movement and what steps people can take in their own lives to fight for gun control.

While the NRA can sometimes feel like an omnipotent force in American politics, Watts says that real progress can be made on the local level. “If people really understood the wins that were being made in statehouses and in boardrooms, they would understand that this cathartic moment in Congress we’re all waiting for will happen. But it's not where the work begins, it's where it ends," she says.

Watts pointed out that, in just the last year, Moms Demand Action has rallied to defeat Stand Your Ground laws in three states, including pro-gun Arkansas.

A reception was held for Watts in the home’s lush backyard. Guests were served pass-around appetizers such as pigs in a blanket, vegetarian spring rolls and spicy tuna rolls. There was also a poke station provided by Sweetfin and hand-crafted cocktails from BTL SVC.

Watts outlined some of Moms Demand Action’s specific successes when speaking to THR.

“Bills were just sailing through state houses that were just so dangerous and so insidious that the gun lobby had been writing for years, and we now have a 90 percent track record of killing those bills every year. We killed over 1,000 last year. Guns on college campuses, arming teachers, permitless carry, stand your ground.”

The vast majority of the guests were women, and they were fired up to take on the issue. After speaking to the attendees about the progress Moms Demand Action has made, Watts fielded several pointed questions on police brutality, the NRA and what steps they could take to fight for gun control.

The NRA has recognized Watts as a threat to their pro-gun agenda, and she discussed why she refuses to back down in the face of repeated attacks. “I got death threats and threats of sexual violence right away, but it really has become like white noise," Watts says. "I realized it for what it is, an attempt to silence and intimidate me, and I know that if I lose my children I have nothing left to lose, so I’m not going to be silenced and intimidated and our volunteers won’t be.”

The audience also heard from La'Shea Cretain, a Louisiana mother who was shot five times by an ex-boyfriend in front of her children and who still has the bullets inside of her body. She has since become an active member of Moms Demand Action and spoke of her struggle to recover from her injuries after being told she would never walk or talk again.

While taking on an organization as powerful as the NRA can sometimes feel hopeless, Watts outlined the small steps that people can take in their own lives to help advance the cause of sensible gun control.

“It’s like drips on a rock. We tell some of our volunteers who only have nap time to be active on this issue to use a hashtag, send an email, make a phone call. All of it accumulates," she says. "If the silent majority becomes vocal, like the vocal minority has been for so long on this issue, 90 percent of Americans support stronger gun laws, 80 percent of gun owners, 74 percent of NRA members. If those people would use their voices and their votes, we would change this issue even faster.”

For those looking for more information on how they can contribute in the fight for gun control, Watts suggested Everytown.org. Momsdemandaction.org or to text "join" to 64433.