Just days ago, my husband and I found ourselves racing to our local King Soopers, our two small children in tow, in what felt like a moment of triumph as we both received our COVID-19 vaccine. As we waited in line while our kids whined and squirmed, we didn't mind. We were overwhelmed with the sense of community alongside the people there with us, so grateful to have made it to this moment in time within the pandemic.

I sat numb last night as I watched the news out of Boulder from another King Soopers just 20 minutes from our home. Ten people tragically and needlessly had their lives cut short by a gunman. I thought of the parents running errands with their kids. The hopeful people waiting in line for their vaccine. The selfless frontline workers who've risked their lives for the past 12 months to ensure we have access to our most basic needs. Dozens of people carrying out their lives, not realizing that they are about to fall victim to a different pandemic that is raging.

I grew up in Colorado, which is to say I grew up with the mountains in my backyard and the trails at my doorstep. I've had the privilege of growing up in wholesome communities where the people who surround us tend to be values-driven individuals—the best of the best in every way.

But in that same vein, I grew up in Colorado.

I was only in 6th grade when Columbine occurred; I can still feel my mom's trembling arms around my shoulders as we watched the news unfold about a high school in my home state. I was in my 20s when a theater full of people were terrorized in Aurora, some of whom I knew personally. I was a new mom when two shooters attacked a Denver STEM school, taking the innocent life of a young man brave enough to try and protect his classmates. There have been at least seven mass shootings all within 20 miles of my house in the last 20 years, and now even the most routine place in our lives—the grocery store—has been compromised.

And this is just my backyard. This pandemic is raging all around us, in every neighborhood and community in America.

I am shook. I am scared. I am desperate to believe that a better future exists for our children. I care too much to accept this as the norm. I refuse to not be upset when senseless violence shatters lives. I believe that as mothers, we can drive change.

We're a gun-free family. We will never own one and we do not desire to do so. This is our choice, and it's one that we've made for the safety of our children. I am the first to acknowledge every American's second amendment rights, but these rights come with massive responsibility, and we need to do more to ensure our children, and truly people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations, have the most basic right as a human, which is to live.

The world can feel overwhelming in moments like these. However, it is in these moments that we can impact change. Here are a few things you can do today to work towards a better tomorrow:

  1. Keep your family safe. If you are a gun owner, this means ensuring that your weapons are locked in a safe that your children can't access with the ammunition stored separately. As a parent, it means coming up with a plan for keeping your children safe when it is within your control. Just in the same way my husband and I are prepared to have tough conversations to protect our children from sexual predators and dangerous situations, we are also prepared for tough conversations about firearms and weapons in the homes of anyone our children are exposed to. Make it a non-negotiable to always ask if there are firearms in the homes where your children play, and if so, ensure they are stored safely.
  2. Hold your representatives elected officials accountable. You can write to your senators and representatives about your concerns. For me, those letters include a list of common sense gun control measures including a ban on high-capacity weapons and ammunition magazines; required background checks on all gun purchases; enhanced access to mental health and substance use services; and more. Take it a step further and do research to find out whether your representatives have accepted money from the NRA, and if so, take this into consideration when they are up for reelection.
  3. Join an organization. There are many organizations advocating for change and responsible gun ownership, including Everytown for Gun Safety, The Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action. A wealth of resources and actionable steps already exist within these resources, along with tools and support to further influence your community. Give, volunteer and use your voice.
  4. Prioritize mental health. If you are anyone else you know is struggling with their mental health, check in and remember there is support available. Emotional awareness starts with ourselves and is an imperative skill to impart in our children. Equip your children with the tools to help manage their fear, anxiety, and worry and create a space of open and safe communication in your home. By raising kids who can understand and regulate their emotions, we can change and empower their futures.

As I look at how our world has come together to slow one pandemic, I can't help but wonder if our country can come together and stop another. I know the path forward isn't an easy one, but I will no longer stand back and have my innocent children wonder if their mother could've done more.