If You're Feeling Hopeless, Here's How You Can Take Action On Gun Violence

    It's hard to feel like what you do matters when problems seem this insurmountable, but here are some things to try.

    Content warning: This post includes discussions of mass shootings, including the recent ones in Uvalde and Buffalo, as well as mentions of suicide.

    In the wake of a mass shooting, it's easy to feel helpless. The horrific shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas came just 10 days after the shooting in Buffalo, which was followed almost immediately by the shooting in Laguna Hills.

    This uniquely American issue is getting worse — mass shootings are happening at an increasing frequency — and it feels like our political leadership isn't willing to do anything to address it. For those who find comfort in doing whatever they can to help, here are some places you can start.

    1. Sign up with an action network like the Giffords Action Network or Everytown.

    Cindy Nell of Prince Georges County, Maryland, holds a list of school shootings since 1998 during a demonstration with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America on Wednesday, May 25, 2022

    By providing your name and contact info, these groups can reach out to you depending on what kind of actions you're comfortable with taking. Examples include attending protests and rallies, meeting with lawmakers, organizing town hall meetings, or drafting op-eds for your local paper.

    2. Donate to a verified fundraiser for families of the 19 students and two teachers who were killed in Uvalde. There is also a list of verified fundraisers for the Buffalo shooting.

    GoFundMe has a list of verified fundraisers to ensure that you're donating to the actual families and funds that need your support. You can see the list for Uvalde here and Buffalo here.

    3. If you're an attorney, the San Antonio Legal Services Association is looking for volunteer lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to the victims and their families. You can find more information in their Facebook post below. If interested, email them at UvaldeResponse@sa-lsa.org.

    Facebook: SALSASanAntonio

    4. Write an op-ed for your local paper.

    This is a common action suggested by gun violence action networks. If your life has been affected by gun violence, or if you're a gun owner who wants significant changes to our gun laws, your voice could be especially valuable. You can try to submit your op-ed directly, or you can go through a group like the Giffords Action Network, which helps get op-eds into papers. Even if your writing doesn't end up being published, getting your thoughts and feelings down in writing might help you work through them.

    5. Contact your representatives in Congress and at the state and local level. Here are links to find your US senator and House representative.

    A local senate chamber in Boise, Wyoming

    It might feel pointless, but the fact is that common sense gun control legislation like expanded background checks is supported by 83% of gun owners, to say nothing of the rest of the American public. Applying constant pressure on all of our representatives, no matter the party, is one of the only tools we have as individuals in fighting against well-funded lobbies like the National Rifle Association. In addition to calling or writing to your federal representatives, make sure to speak to your state and local reps as well. You can also text UNIVERSAL to 34131 to receive instructions from Giffords Action Network.

    6. Talk to your friends and family.

    Telling you to "vote!" is condescending and pointless, since if you're here and reading this, it's a good bet that you already do vote. But you can still have the hard conversations with the people in your life who are supporting the type of politician who is preventing gun control legislation from happening, in hopes that you can get them to see things from your perspective. Talk to them about your fears and feelings, but avoid criticizing their position directly.

    7. Join a local violence prevention outreach program.

    Shootings decreased by as much as 57% in Chicago area neighborhoods this year after local violence prevention and outreach programs began. Generally, these programs work by forming relationships with people who are most likely to commit acts of violence — such as youth who are trapped in a cycle of violence themselves — and helping to steer them in a safer, healthier direction. These programs tend to be very localized and are dependent on local funding, so you may have to do some research to find an applicable one near you.

    8. If you're a gun owner, make sure you are following all safety regulations and recommendations, especially safe storage.

    A person entering the code to a safe

    Ensure that your weapons are stored locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition. Use gun safes to secure your guns and ammo separately, and make sure that children and teenagers are unable to access the safe on their own.

    9. If you're worried about a friend or loved one who has access to a gun and you think they might harm themselves, you can request an "extreme risk order."

    A graphic showing different types of inteerventions

    How this works varies depending on which state you live in, but OneThingYouCanDo.org can guide you through how to approach this situation if it applies to you or someone you love. An extreme risk order can suspend an individual's access to firearms so they can safely get mental health assistance.

    10. Donate to a gun violence prevention group that you believe in.

    Members of Sing Out Louise group attend the Youth Over Guns march across the Brooklyn Bridge

    Everytown is a coalition between Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns that works on several fronts to combat gun violence. Giffords is another gun control advocacy group — led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — that runs a PAC, a law center, and outreach programs. You can also check out groups like the Newtown Action Alliance, the Brady Campaign, and others if they appeal to you more. These groups will also often endorse specific candidates to help you during primaries and general elections. Several of these groups are also currently hiring.

    11. Wear orange and attend an outreach event this June 3–5.

    Everytown has an annual "wear orange weekend" wherein they encourage people to wear orange to spread awareness about gun violence and take part in peace walks, attend press conferences, volunteer at food drives, and take part in other activities that do good in communities while showing united support for gun control.

    This is by no means a complete list of things you can do, but hopefully it provides a starting point for those who want to help in the fight against gun violence.