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Leading the Charge



Kara Nelson Baekey of Moms Demand Action

melani lust

Except for being an engaged voter, Kara Nelson Baekey has never been much of an activist. “I’d never made a sign or marched in front of a building,” she says.

That changed for the Riverside native shortly after a disturbed gunman used a high-powered assault rifle to blast his way into Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School and brutally kill twenty-six children and educators. Like so many Fairfield County parents Kara spent last December 14 heartbroken and horrified. “My eyes were swollen shut from crying,” says Kara, now a Norwalk resident, who took an early train home from her Manhattan job as an operations director at a digital advertising agency to take comfort in her kids.

Kara spared her six-year-old son the awful details, but felt compelled to speak to her daughter, Charlotte, a nine-year-old fourth grader, about the tragedy. “Better to hear it from me than her friends,” Kara explains. Charlotte’s response disturbed Kara even more. “She said, ‘Could this happen in my school? Could it happen to us?’” And even though Kara reassured her daughter she was safe, “I knew I was totally lying. And I couldn’t deal with the idea that I was lying.” So she decided to act.

Distressed that “some of the guns we call legal are just killing machines,” Kara did her homework and quickly allied herself with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a grassroots organization formed in Newtown’s wake by Zionsville, Indiana mom Shannon Watts. The nonprofit now claims more than seventy chapters.

As the founder of its Fairfield County chapter, Kara is leading a core group of about 700 moms closest to Newtown’s ground zero. “In just one month, Kara has pulled together an extremely strong chapter that has mobilized mothers in Newtown and other local communities to act,” says Shannon.

So far, Kara’s role has included building membership through social and traditional media, leading a civil protest outside a Stamford gun show and galvanizing support for gun control marches in Hartford, Washington, D.C., and Brooklyn, New York.

The group’s agenda is distinctly partisan: “We’re not about dialogue. There’s been dialogue and it hasn’t gotten us anywhere. Instead of reaching out to naysayers, we’re interested in reaching out to lawmakers,” she says.

To that end, Moms Demand Action is calling for legislative bans on assault weapons, mandatory background checks for gun purchasers and reporting mandates for large ammunition sales. As Kara takes on the anticipated fight, she says she draws inspiration from what the founders of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did to strengthen drunk driving laws across the nation. “I believe some very motivated moms working together can get things done.” For more information visit momsdemandaction.org »

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