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Julianne Moore is On a Mission to End Gun Violence

by SUSAN PASCAL

The tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that killed 26 people–including 20 children between six and seven years old–ignited Academy Award-winning actress Julianne Moore into action. “Only by doing something about gun violence was I going to be the responsible parent and citizen I wanted to be,” was her visceral response. Moore has since partnered with outspoken activist and fellow mother Shannon Watts to end gun violence in our country.

We spoke with Moore about her journey to advocacy.

1. Can you share your memories of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and how it affected you as the mother of young children?

On December 14, 2012, I was working in New York City. My job is erratic and takes me many places, and the effort it has taken to combine my family life with my working life (as it is for most parents) has been enormous. So that day in 2012, I was luxuriating in the privilege of a set job in Queens. I had reasonable hours, great pay, and a very short commute from my home in Manhattan.

My kids were in the same school, but in different divisions—my 15-year-old son, Cal, was in the upper school, and my 10-year-old daughter, Liv, was in middle school. Their vacations were slightly different, so Liv had just started her holiday break, while Cal was still in class. My husband, Bart, was working that day as well. I had a light day on the set and wasn’t scheduled to work until the afternoon, so I thought I would bring Liv to work with me and she could watch the few scenes I was shooting and then we would return home together.

Early that day, the news broke about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I felt shock, and disbelief, and horror. How could this happen? How could tiny children be shot in the safety of their own school? What could be done for those families, how will they go on? And then—how will I explain this to my own children?

Liv was going to be with me all day, so I felt I could control the narrative and decided we would discuss this as a family when we were all together at the end of the day. Her father and I could tell our children about the tragedy and assure them that they were safe. But until then, I would keep the news away from her.

When the van came to get us for work, I whispered to the driver to please keep the radio off. In hair and makeup, I asked them to please turn off the TV, and I asked the other actors and crew members to please not mention anything in front of my daughter. Everyone was very shaken up by the news, and we all had difficulty concentrating that day, but everyone wanted to protect the little girl who happened to be visiting our set.

We returned home in the early evening and had time before dinner, so I put on holiday music, opened the dusty boxes of Christmas ornaments, and began decorating the tree. Liv helped for a little while but then became distracted by her newly acquired smartphone, which, I am loathe to admit, we had just given her. At that moment, she looked up from her very carefully monitored phone with, its selected numbers of grandparents, mom, dad, brother, and friends, and said, “Mommy, did a bunch of little kids get shot today?”

I was so ashamed. That was the moment I realized that I had failed as a mother. I wasn’t keeping her safe. Attempting to shield a child from terrible news does nothing to prevent them, or any other child in the United States, from experiencing gun violence. Only by doing something about gun violence was I going to be the responsible parent and citizen I wanted to be.

2. Talk about your journey from concerned mother to advocate, ultimately forming an alliance with Shannon Watts and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

So I began speaking out. Traditionally, actors have been reluctant to talk about guns, because of the relationship in our culture between guns and entertainment. But one of the things that I learned was that the entire world consumes the exact same video games and movies, and we are the only developed country in the world that has this level of gun violence.

I noticed that Michael Bloomberg had started an organization called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and I sent money to it. I began speaking out in interviews. I read as much as I could about gun violence, and I started following people on Twitter who were speaking out about this epidemic. One of them was a woman named Shannon Watts.

3. You wrote the intro to Shannon Watts’ book, “Fight Like a Mother.” How has Shannon influenced you in your anti-gun violence advocacy?

Shannon Watts had a similar experience to mine on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting. Her sense of outrage led her to start a Facebook page initially titled One Million Moms for Gun Control. Within moments of her creation, incensed moms across the country joined her, and Shannon understood that she had tapped into a “tsunami of rage” among American moms. Just like that, Shannon Watts became a mother of the movement.

I didn’t get to meet Shannon for another two years. By then, I had tired of the blowback I received when speaking out against gun violence and realized I needed to do more than send money and tweet. I had been avidly following Shannon and realized that her organization, now titled Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, had partnered with Mike Bloomberg’s group, now called Everytown for Gun Safety. Inspired by what they had done, I went to them and offered to create a nonpartisan council of people from my community (known for their very big mouths) who were willing to lend their loud voices to the gun safety movement. And so I founded the Creative Council at Everytown—our initial group consisted of everybody on my contact list who would answer my email. I was modeling my behavior on Shannon, who by this point had become my own personal hero.

When I did meet Shannon in person, she did not disappoint. She was exactly as she had been described to me—a mom of five, modest, a full-time volunteer who worked around the clock to change culture and legislation. She is an empath, an introvert, a quiet warrior, and a leader whose mission statement never fails to both make me cry and galvanize my activism—“If we have lost our children, we have nothing left to lose.” In her wonderful book, Shannon explains what it is to be an activist and how all of us have the ability and the bandwidth to do more than we think is possible. She explains that moms have a unique toolkit of assets, and the very skill sets we use to manage our family lives are the ones that make us uniquely powerful activists.

Moms Demand Action has grown from a Facebook page to our nation’s “first and largest grassroots counterweight to the gun lobby.” I am proud to be among the now thousands of volunteers, along with my now teenage daughter, working to change the culture of gun violence in the United States. And I am very proud to know Shannon Watts.

4. How can readers become involved with anti gun violence advocacy?

I would say reach out to Shannon’s group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Click here for more information.

And in case you missed it, the Sandy Hook Promise, an anti-violence nonprofit founded by the parents of victims of the Sandy Hook shootings, released a powerful back-to-school video promoting their “Know the Signs” program. WATCH HERE

SUSAN PASCAL

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