8 Questions for Jen Reidy

People wielding guns kill an average of 91 Americans every day, and here in Marin, some of our own youth became part of this statistic in May 2016, when one Novato High School student was shot and killed and another critically injured.

Historically, gun control is a political hot-button issue, and Marin County residents have traditionally been more aligned with the policies of gun reform groups such as the Brady Campaign. Although she had never been involved with these organizations, nor very politically active at all, when tragic news of a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary hit the airwaves in 2012, Marin County resident Jen Reidy took notice. The shooting occurred one town away from where she grew up, in a place “much like Marin County.”

This event set in motion a journey Reidy never expected. She left her job in high tech, poured her time and energy into community organizing, and just last summer found herself co-leading 500 orange-shirted people onto the Golden Gate Bridge in protest. As the head of the Marin chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense (now Moms Demand Action), she hosts informational sessions and organizes marches in Sacramento.

1. Why did you become involved in the gun violence prevention movement?

A year after Sandy Hook, I was shocked and angry that Congress did not strengthen gun laws and I began to pay attention. It became clear to me that if we do nothing, nothing will change. It was an epiphany.

2. How did you get started?

I was inspired by early Marin Moms Demand Action members Cynthia Pillsbury and Tia Liddell-Ivery and others. I joined Marin Moms Demand Action as the communications coordinator and began to host informational house parties. At first the only people who came were my family and friends, who felt obligated. But now I joke that my small house is so packed people sit in the bathtub.

3. Why are house parties effective?

At house parties and other info sessions I can make it clear that this is not about taking people’s guns away. We want to let hunters and other gun owners know that we support them and our work is about finding common ground, about agreeing that we all want to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals, domestic abusers and people on the no-fly list.

4. Have there been lockdowns here in Marin?

There have been three gun-related lockdowns in Marin schools that I know of. It is so sad that children today, including my own, think of lockdowns at school as totally normal. After the lockdown at her school my youngest asked me, “Why would anyone want to shoot a little kid?”

5. What has it been like working on this issue here in Marin County?

Marin is a great place to work for gun violence prevention. Ninety-two percent of Americans want stricter gun regulations and in Marin people will speak up when politicians are not representing their concerns.

6. What are some steps lawmakers could take right now?

Closing background check loopholes. We estimate that between 30 and 40 percent of all gun sales today do not go through background checks, which really opens the door for convicted criminals, known domestic violence abusers and those who are mentally ill.

7. Why wear orange?

The Wear Orange movement began in Chicago and went national when friends of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Chicago student killed by gunfire, decided to honor her life by wearing orange — the color hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others.

8. How can people get involved?

We have about a dozen moms here in Marin volunteering up to 10 hours a week. Join us. Sign up at momsdemandaction.org to receive text alerts and instructions on how to contact local and national representatives who are voting on important gun legislation. Or follow our Marin Moms Demand Action chapter on Facebook to see what is happening locally. Everyone’s voice matters and you can make a difference.

Kirsten Jones Neff

Kirsten Jones Neff is a journalist who writes about all things North Bay, with special attention to the environment and the region’s farmers, winemakers and food artisans. She also works and teaches in school gardens. Kirsten’s poetry collection, When The House Is Quiet, was nominated for the Northern California Book Award, and three of her poems received a Pushcart nomination. She lives in Novato with her husband and three children and tries to spend as much time as possible on our local mountains, beaches and waterways. For more on her work visit KirstenJonesNeff.Com.