Local Moms Become Vocal Advocates Against Gun Violence

These Chicagoland moms advocated against gun violence in their own communities. Now, they're seeking to make national change to protect kids from mass shootings.

Colleen Wehrli, a Naperville mother of four, has been going to Moms Demand Action meetings for years.  In 2022, with her advocacy, Naperville passed a city ordinance banning the sale of assault weapons. After seeing the change, Wehrli was inspired to make her voice louder.

Wehrli is one of nearly 1,500 moms from more than 20 states who marched at the National Mall in D.C. on April 17 as Congress returned to session to demand the passing of  S.25, the Assault Weapons Ban. This gathering came on the heels of the mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville.

Photo credit: March Fourth

The April 17 event was organized by March Fourth, a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group with the singular mission to federally ban assault weapons. March Fourth was formed shortly after the Highland Park Parade massacre on July 4, 2022 that killed 7 people and wounded more than 30 others.

Wehrli said she and other American parents are done sitting on the sidelines waiting for their elected officials to act in the face of an escalating number of attacks on their innocent children. In the year since Uvalde, parents feel more helpless than ever to protect their children from school shootings and the ongoing impact of terrifying active shooter drills. 

According to recent data released from Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, fear about school shootings and other public mass shootings dominates parents’ worries. Nearly three out of four parents, or 73 percent, surveyed reported being worried about a mass shooting while out in public, while two out of three parents, 67 percent, told researchers they are worried about a shooting at their child’s school.

As of press time, American children have been traumatized by 103 school shooting incidents and 141 mass shootings so far in 2023. This number has sharply increased in recent years: according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, 2018 and 2019 saw 119 school shootings each, and 2021 and 2022 witnessed 250 and 303, respectively.

According to statistics from the Pew Research Center 67 percent of Americans, including half of all republicans, support a ban on assault weapons.  

In July 2022, the Assault Weapons Ban was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The companion bill in the Senate, which had 40 cosponsors, was never scheduled for a vote. Because the last session of Congress ended in late December without the Senate bill passing, both bills had to be re-introduced this session and both bills will need to be voted on by their respective houses of Congress before they can go to President Biden (who supports the bill) for signing. 

“There is a palpable and consistent demand for change in this country as we watch children get murdered in schools over and over again with no action from our government,” said Kitty Brandtner, founder and co-President, March Fourth, and a mother of three from Wilmette. “In the face of escalating violence, we are getting louder, stronger and more resilient. America’s mass shooting epidemic must end with a federal ban on assault weapons — our lawmakers need to act now. We want our children to grow up.” 

Photo credit: March Fourth

Caroline Cook, an Elmhurst mom of two and elementary school psychologist, attended the April 17 event. She said as these incidents happen more frequently and hit closer and closer to home, she feels it is her duty to be the voice for these children.

“When my kids come home from school and report that they practiced a lockdown drill, I worry about the impact on their mental health,” says Cook. “At my workplace, I’m tired of being faced with the possibility of a mass shooting. My students deserve safety. As a school psychologist, I feel a responsibility to advocate for all students.”

Following the April 17 rally, Cook, Wehrli and others knocked on more than 60 doors of senators and representatives, speaking with staffers and showing their support for the passing of the ban. Despite being met at times with opposition, Wehrli says it is her job to keep the momentum going.

“There truly isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of the possibility of a school shooting  when I drop my kids off at school. It’s terrifying and keeps me awake at night,” she says. “It is our job as parents to protect our kids and let them grow up to be the people they are  meant to be. We can make that change by passing the ban on assault weapons.”

How to Support the Marchers

Photo credit: March Fourth

Call your senators and representatives and ask them to support S.25, the Assault Weapons Ban, and move the legislation forward.


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Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky
Lori Orlinsky is an award-winning journalist and bestselling children's book author. She is the mom of three little ladies who keep her on her toes.

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