National Beat Reporter
Earlier this month, Washington state Senator Patty Murray awarded the Golden Tennis Shoe Award to Jane Weiss for her anti-gun violence activism. Weiss began her activist career after her niece, Veronika Weiss, fell victim to the rampage of terror that occurred when Elliot Rodger opened fire in the streets of Isla Vista five years ago.
Weiss’ first spout of activism came when Richard Martinez began the “Not One More” movement at the memorial for the victims of the Isla Vista shooting. Martinez asked people nation-wide to send postcards with the phrase to their elected representatives to encourage them to join the fight.
Weiss participated in the movement and delivered her postcards in July, unaware that people in her home state of Washington were already gathering signatures for tighter gun control laws. Upon witnessing this, Weiss began her activism campaign.
Weiss is involved in a number of advocacy groups, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Everytown Survivor Network, and The Alliance for Gun Responsibility. Weiss also frequently participates in advocacy meetings that work toward stronger federal gun law prevention in order to keep these tragedies from continuing to happen.
For the past two Decembers, Weiss has traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator Murray and the Newtown Action Alliance for the National Vigil for all Victims of Gun Violence. There, Weiss is able to talk to senators about her story, as well as the stories of other families affected by this horrid phenomena of mass shootings. She encourages them to keep up the fight.
Weiss’ activism has sparked monumental changes, such as bringing Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO) to the state of Washington in 2014. A GVRO is a procedure that enables courts to remove guns from those who are proven likely to use them dangerously.
“I was pretty honored to be part of that change,” Weiss said in a phone interview with The Bottom Line.
Weiss and her activist groups have helped pass three initiatives in Washington in the past five years, including one regarding tighter background checks. This was the first to pass, with 70 percent of voters. While these changes are taking place state-wide, Weiss yearns to see change nation-wide as well.
“On the state level we are making changes, but nothing really matters until we see changes nationally,” she added.
There continues to be a need for tighter gun control laws even 20 years after the first school shooting that brought the concept of “mass school shootings” into the public consciousness. Since Apr. 20, 1999, when two teenagers walked into Columbine High School in Colorado on a killing spree, a series of mass shootings have occurred. The country has not stopped paying attention to these tragic events. As a retired second-grade teacher, Weiss is very aware but still in disbelief about why that tragedy happened and why it is a recurring problem for our country.
“I knew about every school shooting before Veronika’s,” she said. “These stories were already there; why we didn’t do anything 20 years ago is amazing.”
The United States has seen an upward trend of mass shootings; seven years ago, we witnessed 2000 in one year. More Americans have been victims of gun violence than have been killed in all of the United States wars combined.
“I was in the process of thinking about retiring, so this really led me to get involved,” Weiss said. “I backed down from teaching because there’s no reason this should be happening.”
Mass shootings still pose a huge threat to the security of American citizens. In 2012, 26 first-graders lost their lives at the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. In 2017, 58 people were killed at a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2018, 17 lives were stolen at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. These are just three of the thousands that have occurred in our nation.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting sparked a March for Our Lives parade in Washington, D.C., in which over 500,000 citizens marched in hopes to see positive change.
“It’s the first time there’s been much movement in Washington at all,” Weiss said. She continually encourages people to keep fighting this fight.
As a relative of a victim of gun violence, Weiss is a dedicated advocate for gun control, but made it clear that the current climate of our country is what keeps the fight going.
“This is pretty much it here on out until there’s no other reason to advocate anymore,” said Weiss. “My nephew is a junior at UCSB. I want him safe, I want my other nephews in college safe, I want everyone safe.”