Week 186- #localherospotlight: Kitty Brandtner


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#Localherospotlight: Kitty Brandtner

Few people  get passionate enough about a position or cause that they quit their day jobs to pursue non-profit advocacy to drive for change. Kitty Brandtner is one such person. She has been so horrified by gun violence in America’s schools that after the July 4th shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, she turned her attention to lobbying the federal government to ban semi-automatic assault weapons. She is not trying to reverse an American’s right to bear arms; her work is nonpartisan in nature. She simply wants to see an end to semi automatic weapons being used to decimate children throughout America, in schools no less. “Weapons of war simply shouldn’t be accessed by civilians. “

As we commence the back to school season, hope you appreciate this exclusive Q&A with the March 4th founder.

To learn more about Kitty and her valiant cause, go to https://www.wemarchfourth.org/.

Q: Why did you found March 4th?
A: The long answer is:  Uvalde wrecked me, like many parents, as I was sending my oldest to Kindergarten that fall. I knew I was sending her to a mass shooting target – an elementary school.
I chatted about this tragedy with many parents from other countries and they ALL said the same thing: “the massacre in Uvalde is horrendous,and it will just never be our reality so we will never fully understand what you go through in America. It’s so hard for us to get guns, let alone assault weapons.” I think that planted a seed in me — this is so uniquely American, and we don’t HAVE to live like this.
Then a month later, it hit home. On the 4th of July, a man with a legally purchased AR-15 opened fire on the Highland Park parade. My husband and I took our kids from the Winnetka parade, raced home, and sheltered in place while the shooter was at large for most of the day. I couldn’t stop crying. Friends of mine had run for their lives on the most patriotic day in our country because of the most common thing in our country, guns.
But then, I just got angry. Why were we tolerating this life? Why did these weapons need to be available to civilians? What was I missing?

I posted on social media on the 5th of July questions to my followers like “why does someone NEED an AR-15?” and “can the president issue an Executive Order to ban assault weapons?” — I was spinning just trying to learn what I could. Finally, I posted before I went to sleep: “I think I want to go to D.C. and scream at the top of my lungs that I want a federal ban on assault weapons. I can’t live like this anymore. Does anyone want to come with me?” and published my email address. I awoke to over 300 emails. The messages didn’t just say, “I’m in” – they included things like “I’m in lobbying, I can help you.” “I’m in PR, I can help you.” “I can get you the permit for the march”… so on the 6th of July, March Fourth was founded. Our one BI-PARTISAN mission: to federally ban assault weapons now. 

The short answer is: I was an experienced salesperson at the same firm for 13 years. I founded March Fourth by accident because I was afraid of the world, I was raising my 3 kids in and wanted to change it. 

Q: Why hasn’t this legislation passed sooner?
A:The assault weapons ban actually DID exist – for 10 years (1994-2004). The only benefit of its expiring is that we have data to know it was effective. Since then, the topic of firearms has been spun in a very political and divisive manner. Now, we’re in a country where you can’t support the second amendment while also supporting gun safety legislation… but we’re trying to change that. The fact is, 2/3 of Americans support a federal assault weapons ban. This INCLUDES Republicans and gun owners. We’re not divided. Congress is. So, the reason this hasn’t passed is the gun lobby has made this a right vs left issue. But now, the mass shooting epidemic in America has made this a humanity issue. And we’re all uniting on the need for more firearm legislation to save lives. If any other product killed children at this rate, it would be pulled from the shelves. Why are guns different?

Q: Why don’t all the groups align on this issue?
A: Gun violence is a multifaceted complex issue. The assault weapons ban isn’t going to fix gun violence, and we need so much change in this space, so it is imperative to continue to welcome all organizations and change makers with open arms. Mass shootings account for 1% of gun violence in America which is a very sobering stat. The fact is gun violence predominantly impacts black and brown communities and there are layered efforts to make positive changes on a variety of levels. March Fourths sees the assault weapons ban as low hanging fruit in gun legislation: the law existed already and worked. We just want it reenacted. 

Q: What will be the impact of a federal ban on assault weapons?
A: When the law was in place, there was a 70% decrease in mass shooting fatalities. That alone is reason enough to reenact this law. Aside from that, over 30% of mass shooters purchase their weapon legally 30 days before their shooting takes place – another fact that, alone, is worth passing this law. When you look at the string of deadly mass shootings in America, the common thread is a single sentence: the shooter obtained the AR-15 legally. What if they couldn’t?

Q: How can people help?
A: Three things: 1) Follow @march_fourth_ on instagram for daily reminders on which Congress members to call and what to say. 2) Visit www.wemarchfourth.org to donate or volunteer. 3) Have conversations about this issue with friends and family – normalize being able to support the second amendment AND support legislation that removes weapons of war from civilian hands. We will do this together, but only when we each begin to speak up for what is right.

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There will be no end to the curveballs that life throws. As soon as you feel comfortable, another setback or new challenge will arise. Alyssa Rapp is driven to help people like her—the doers, those who keep swinging—seek to succeed in both life and career. Every challenge is an opportunity, are you making the most of yours?

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