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Moms Demand Action Hires New Exec. Director: Will She Approach Gun Violence Honestly?

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This week Moms Demand Action made a historic appointment, naming Angela Ferrell-Zabala as its first-ever executive director.

Ferrell-Zabala is taking over for Moms’ Founder Shannon Watts, who is stepping back from her leadership role in the organization.

“I’ve been grateful to have Angela by my side for the past four years as both a colleague and a friend, and I know Moms Demand Action will thrive with her new guidance and leadership,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action in a press release obtained by GunsAmerica.

“For ten years, Moms Demand Action has been changing the calculus on gun safety,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, incoming Executive Director of Moms Demand Action. “As Executive Director, I’m excited to help usher in the next decade, leading our grassroots volunteers as we stand shoulder to shoulder with survivors, students, mayors, faith leaders, and lawmakers in the fight for a safer world than what the gun lobby has tried to create for us.”

While many in the gun community probably don’t care about this news, one can argue that with new leadership comes new opportunity.

Maybe, just maybe, Ferrell-Zabala will be more open to having constructive dialogue with those on the opposite side of the gun divide. Maybe she’ll be more objective in her approach to solving gun-related violence in America.

That is to say, instead of focusing on ineffective and unconstitutional prohibitions on commonly owned firearms and accessories, the new executive director will target the main driver of violent crime in any given community: hyper-violent offenders who are allowed to terrorize their fellow citizens with impunity.

To be fair, Ferrell-Zabala shouldn’t take our word for it. She should consider what The Trace, the Bloomberg-funded publication, has to say about the matter. From a 2022 bulletin report by The Trace:

The relatively small number of young people driving the bulk of shootings in Washington, D.C. A report from the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, which is working with the District on a plan to diagnose and reduce the city’s gun violence, concluded that at least 500 identifiable people annually drive 60-70 percent of the city’s shootings — and likely no more than 200 individuals at any given moment in time. The report analyzed D.C.’s 341 homicides in 2019 and 2020 and found that the average age of a homicide victim was 31 and the average age of a suspect was 27. They found that guns were used in 85 percent of all homicides, over 90 percent of victims and suspects were male, and about 96 percent of victims and suspects were Black. Moreover, about 86 percent of victims and suspects had been known to the criminal justice system, and a sizable number had previously been victims of a violent incident. Personal disputes were the most common cause of a homicide, making up 21 percent of all cases. 

For clarity, here are those NICJR findings in chart form:

Category Statistics
Annual number driving 60-70% of city’s shootings 500 identifiable people
Maximum individuals driving shootings at any given moment 200 individuals
Average age of homicide victim 31 years old
Average age of homicide suspect 27 years old
Homicides involving guns 85%
Male victims and suspects Over 90%
Black victims and suspects 96%
Victims and suspects known to criminal justice system 86%
Victims with previous violent incident experience Sizable number
Personal disputes causing homicides 21%
Source: National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform Report on Washington, D.C.

Clearly, D.C.’s very strict gun control laws are having no effect on the small group of identifiable criminals responsible for the majority of the city’s violence. And, for the record, D.C. imposes all of the following, per Giffords:

  • Universal background checks
  • Gun owner licensing
  • Handgun dealer licensing
  • Extreme risk protection orders
  • Most domestic violence gun laws
  • Assault weapon restrictions
  • Large-capacity magazine ban
  • Waiting Periods 
  • Child access prevention laws
  • Open Carry Regulations 
  • Strong concealed carry law

Creating a “safer world,” to use Ferrell-Zabala’s words, starts with acknowledging the source of the problem. In the case of D.C., it’s certainly not the lack of gun control. It’s the known criminals, who don’t give a rip about universal background checks or bans on black rifles or waiting periods.

As David Muhammad, the executive director of NICJR, told DCist about the report’s findings last year, “This very small number of high-risk individuals are identifiable. Their violence is predictable and therefore it is preventable.”

“It’s extremely difficult engaging a 25-year-old who has seven previous adult arrests, who is an avowed member of his neighborhood clique, who’s not currently interested in services, but that is the individual we have to serve,” he added. “That’s the individual we have to pour resources into.” 

Solving violence is a people problem, not a gun problem. Fix broken people and incarcerate dangerous ones. Yes, that’s easier said than done. But still, any serious violence prevention strategist needs to recognize this truth if they want to make any impact at all.

Because as much as Moms Demand Action wants to believe that gun control disarms hyper-violent individuals, it doesn’t. D.C. is proof of that. Let’s hope that Ferrell-Zabala is paying attention. Let us also hope she’s willing to target the root of the problem.

is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

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