Enough is enough is enough. In the wake of last week’s tragedy in Parkland, Florida, we’re more committed to gun reform advocacy than ever, and we’re seeking all the insights we can get and share on making our voices heard. So, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down for a chat with Ria Browne, the woman who launched the #safetyinnumbers campaign this week with the aim to build the Instagram following for Everytown, a crucial organization that’s combatting gun violence, past that of the NRA (as of 8:30 am PST, they are at 544K!). We hope her insights inspire you as much as they’ve inspired us.
You created a viral Instagram campaign in an effort to support Everytown for Gun Safety. As far as we can tell, you are a passionate gun control advocate and mother, which are both amazing, notable qualities, but not a PR agency or a someone trying to support her own agenda. It seems like you created this movement by channeling your personal passion into action. We are inspired and in awe, and we’re wondering, what made you decided to mobilize via social feeds?
I realized that in the general population there was a lot of emotion but not a lot of organized action and streamlining of information. And [I realized] that the social media channels for gun reform organizations were being underused. Increasing the Instagram awareness for Everytown helped with two main things: getting people the proper information (as there are so many misunderstandings about the gun reform movement) and creating as sense of agency about being involved. It’s been amazing to see people comment on posts as they track the numbers going up!
I also wanted to band together an army of people who are educated on the cause and willing to engage with pro-gun people in a civilized manner. This is a way for us to stick together and show the politicians what a force we are. It’s really strength in numbers, but I used the hashtag #safetyinnumbers because safety for all what we’re striving for.
How long have you been an activist, and how did you get started?
I’ve been involved with Everytown for Gun Safety for about three years now. I have another mom friend who got started with me, organizing events for our friends because we realized that no one really knew what gun reform was about. (We don’t say “gun control” because people react negatively to that term.) So far, we have organized an informational presentation with John Feinblatt, the president of Everytown; a screening of the documentary Under the Gun (which I consider a must-see if you want to get involved); a booth selling Everytown goods at the Brooklyn Flea; and a Facebook fundraiser after the shooting in Las Vegas.
How important is it to you that your daughters see and understand the work you are doing?
It’s really important that my kids see and understand what I’m doing, because I want them to know that we have a responsibility to take care of our fellow humans. The tragedies that we see on an almost daily basis must not be ignored, and you need to teach kids this. This Instagram campaign has been fun for them because they are both on social media, and celebrities they love have been reposting my posts. They think it’s super cool, and it is!
There are many women (and men) who are wanting to get involved in supporting gun reform in a larger way, but don't know where to look or how to start. What do you say to these people?
The first thing is, educate yourself. The pro-gun movement is filled with misinformation, and many people don’t understand what common sense gun reform is about. They think that we want to confiscate all guns from all Americans, and that is simply not the case. You can get almost all the information you need on Everytown.org.
And then, join a local group organizing events. Moms Demand Action is a great one, and they have chapters all over the country. Using your knowledge, spread the word in a kind, civilized manner and try to engage with those whose opinions counter your own. The only way we are going to make progress is if we can come together on both sides and share our ideas, and hopefully reach an agreement on the various issues. This way, we can help sway the votes around the country because ultimately, it is the politicians voting on the laws.
What has been the biggest takeaway from this experience thus far?
That people want something concrete – to see that progress is being made. So many people are tracking this campaign on their own now, and I love that they feel such agency about it. This tiny thing, of just following one more account on Instagram, has been so gratifying for them, and now that they are engaged, I truly feel they will help move the cause forward. Every tiny little bit counts.
We love your commitment to increasing awareness of Everytown and their work, but what is your ultimate goal? What sort of gun reform would put your mind at ease?
Ultimately, I would like to see some sort of licensing system for someone to be a gun owner, where you would have to qualify by passing certain standards and tests, similar to obtaining a driver’s license, with age limitations. But there are a lot of things we need to achieve before we get there!