Activities and Achievements 2020
2020 has been a unique and incredibly challenging year. Even so, we continued to promote lifesaving public policy; engage citizens, supporters, youth, and coalition partners; and develop public awareness about gun violence in Wisconsin.
This year, much of our public policy has focused on
- preventing Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions from passing in Wisconsin counties and municipalities,
- reimagining public safety to stop police violence,
- extreme risk protection orders (ERPO), and
- background checks on all gun sales.
For example, WAVE staff wrote letters to local officials where pro-gun activists proposed resolutions. Our supporters also sent hundreds of emails. Ultimately, several counties voted down these proposals, and others weakened the language to the point of having little or no effect, in part, because of the public pressure we compelled.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, WAVE members have been active participants in our fight for gun violence prevention, justice, and democracy. For example, we have come together to support one another in-person and then at virtual events throughout the year.
In January through March, we joined with one another for a concert, yoga, poetry, a movie-screening, soccer, and to write No More Broken Hearts notes to our elected officials, urging them to support lifesaving gun violence prevention laws.
After the tragic shooting at the Molson Coors brewery in Milwaukee in late February, we came together for the powerful Milwaukee Strong candlelight vigil to unite and heal at Milwaukee City Hall.
In April, in response to angry, gun-toting crowds showing up at the Capitol to protest the Safer At Home Order, we came together virtually for our Unifying Wisconsin event, including gun violence prevention speakers and community artists.
In June, we participated in virtual National Gun Violence Prevention Day (Wear Orange) events in Milwaukee and the Fox Valley.
In October, we held a series of get-out-the-vote virtual events, including a Concert for the Vote to get our supporters excited to vote and get-out-the-vote.
This year we continued to amplify our engagement efforts using our relational organizing program. Through this program alone, we now have hundreds of high-bar activists, called WAVE Action Leaders. Many of them contact their list of friends and family (which now includes over one thousand individuals) when we invite them to action. This year, our WAVE Action Leaders have been incredibly effective in encouraging people to engage civically by responding to the 2020 Census, registering to vote, or voting.
This year, for the first time, WAVE hired a team of young people to help run the summer internship program and register new voters. This team consisted primarily of young leaders who had completed our internship program.
For the third year, WAVE successfully engaged six youth interns in our summer internship program, which was entirely online this year. The interns participated in online gun violence prevention advocacy and civic engagement. At the internship program’s conclusion, some of the interns went on to join our youth civic engagement team.
WAVE now has three active Action Teams — one in Madison, one in the Fox Valley, and one in Milwaukee. Consisting of citizen-activists and led by board members and staff, these teams have been meeting — virtually — more than ever before (about once per month). As always, our Action Teams have been able to take action steps to prevent gun violence. This year, the Action Teams were particularly crucial for letting us know what our supporters need during this difficult time.
In our efforts to promote gun violence prevention policies and support our community after the tragic Molson Coors shooting, our partnership with the 80% Coalition was exceptionally beneficial.
We also uplifted our black-led partner organizations’ concerns and demands, especially concerning police violence against BIPOC individuals and communities. For example, we are immensely grateful for the African American Civic Engagement Round Table and the Community Justice Action Fund.
Finally, Wisconsin Voices partners’ support was essential in our civic engagement efforts, including get-out-the-count, voter registration, and get-out-the-vote.
WAVE is the Wisconsin media’s go-to organization when seeking a local comment on a story related to gun violence or gun violence prevention. In 2020 so far, WAVE staff, board members and trained volunteers in key areas of the state were quoted or mentioned in dozens of media hits.
Our Activities and Achievements 2019
In 2019, WAVE promoted lifesaving public policy; engaged citizens, supporters, youth, and coalition partners; and developed public awareness about gun violence in Wisconsin.
Much of our public policy focus has been on suicide prevention, extreme risk protection orders (ERPO), and background checks on all gun sales.
For example, WAVE ensured that the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention considered ERPO for their recommendations. Also, in part due to the persistence of WAVE supporters, the Wisconsin legislature introduced both an ERPO bill and a universal background checks bill. Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers even called for a special legislative session to address gun violence.
WAVE members participated in so many impactful events. From the I LOVE: Impacted Lives Overcoming Violence Effort – a local interpretation of the TIME Magazine “Guns in America” event in March, to PrideFest and the National Gun Violence Prevention Awareness (aka, Wear Orange) Day in June, to the Recess Rally in August, to Laborfest and the Commonsense Gun Laws Rally in September, to the Special Session Rally in November, we turned out in big numbers and made our voices heard.
This October, we hosted our big biannual event – the Gun Violence Prevention Day of Action at the Capitol. We had an enthusiastic turnout of about 150 WAVE activists from across the state. Every legislative office got the message that we need background checks on all gun sales and extreme risk protection orders.
We also amplified our engagement efforts by using a relational organizing program called Organizing Empowerment. Using this system, our supporters can respond to our ‘calls to action’ by asking their friends, family, and neighbors to take action. We have even hired new staff to ensure the success of this program during 2020 for projects, such as Get Out the Count for the 2020 Census.
For the second year, WAVE successfully engaged eight youth interns in our summer internship program. The interns registered people to vote, organized and participated in public protests and demonstrations, and led advocacy training sessions for other youth. Since the end of the summer, one of these interns organized Milwaukee’s 2019 climate strike. Another became the head of the Milwaukee chapter of March for Our Lives. We are confident that all of the interns will use the skills they developed this summer to make positive impacts on their communities.
As in previous years, we worked hard to collaborate with other community organizations that are working to promote peace, including suicide prevention groups, domestic violence prevention groups, other gun violence prevention groups, and faith-based groups, among others. This year, for example, we worked closely with suicide prevention organizations in our efforts to influence the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide to include extreme risk protection orders in their recommendations. We also worked closely with all of the members of the 80% Coalition to organize a rally for the special legislative session on gun violence.
WAVE’s action teams in Madison and Appleton/Fox Valley have been busy, too. For example, WAVE’s Madison action team participated in events at the Capitol on February 14th and September 18th and tabled at the Madison Farmer’s Market on June 8th. One Madison WAVE action team member even hosted a forum on gun violence prevention at his church. Likewise, the Appleton team held an in-district meeting with Rep. Mike Gallagher, organized a dessert social event to support WAVE’s youth internship program, tabled for Wear Orange Day at a Juneteenth celebration, testified at a Suicide Prevention Task Force public hearing, and collaborated with newVoices singers on a ‘musical conversation about gun responsibility.’
WAVE is the Wisconsin media’s go-to organization when seeking a local comment on a story related to gun violence or gun violence prevention. In 2019, WAVE staff, board members and trained volunteers in key areas of the state were quoted or mentioned in at least 127 media hits.
Our Activities and Achievements 2017-2018
Public Policy: Creating Commonsense Solutions
The legislative climate related to gun violence prevention remains harsh in Wisconsin, yet WAVE supporters have been able to make significant gains in pursuing lifesaving policies and in stopping radical pro-gun legislation. Importantly, all three of our policy priorities were drafted this 2017-2018 legislative session–two of them with bipartisan sponsors.
Suicide Prevention: In Wisconsin, approximately three-fourths of firearm deaths are suicide deaths. WAVE worked worked closely with our allies, particularly those from the mental health and suicide prevention communities, in crafting and advocating for a bipartisan Lethal Violence Protective Order (LVPO) bill—a “red flag” bill. We will continue to work on this bill in the next legislative session.
Urban Violence Reduction: Most of Wisconsin’s firearm homicides occur in the urban centers, particularly Milwaukee. Strong scientific evidence shows that we could successfully reduce gun homicides by keeping guns out of the hands of those at greatest risk for violent behaviors. Therefore, WAVE works with key stakeholders to advocate for several important bills. In addition to the LVPO, we promoted a universal background check policy, which is central to any comprehensive approach to gun violence prevention. We also worked on a bipartisan bill that would prohibit violent misdemeanants and habitual criminals from purchasing and possessing firearms.
Minimizing the Extremist Pro-Gun Agenda: WAVE provides substantial resistance to the “any gun, anywhere” agenda. Over the past year, pro-gun lawmakers introduced legislation to eliminate the training and permit requirements for public gun carrying (permitless carry), to allow guns in K-12 schools, and to require high schools to offer gun training classes. For each of these reckless policies, we generated thousands of constituent contacts with legislators and an enormous public outcry: We stopped all of these bills from becoming law in Wisconsin!
Citizen and Supporter Engagement: Growing a Visible and Vocal Presence
WAVE action teams in key areas of the state, including Madison, the greater Milwaukee area, and the Fox Valley, meet on a regular basis to plan and host “days of action” and other volunteer-led events, such as public awareness events in their communities, press conferences, and face-to-face meetings with their legislators. Currently, our action teams are leading the effort to motivate school districts and common councils to pass resolutions aligned with our policy priorities.
Our highly-engaged supporters and partners hosted WAVE at events in Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Kenosha, Appleton, Brookfield, Monroe, Janesville, Sun Prairie, Stevens Point and elsewhere this year. Highlights included a staged play reading in Madison by the Forward Theater Company, a benefit concert in Milwaukee by Charlie King, and the Women’s March in Milwaukee, Green Bay, and Eau Claire.
During the legislative session, with very little notice, we filled a State Capitol hearing room (and the overflow room) with several hundred informed people ready to testify in opposition to the permitless carry and guns in schools bill, vastly outnumbering those who were in favor. Just one day after our massive turnout, the governor told the press that he did not think the requirements for carrying a concealed weapon should be changed, effectively killing the bill. (And, by the end of the legislative session, the full-time lobbyist brought in to get the bill passed had moved back to Idaho!)
We also held our biennial Lobby Day event, bringing hundreds of gun violence prevention activists to the Capitol to meet with legislators and advocate for stronger gun laws.
Coalition Engagement: Finding Strength in Numbers
Organizations that actively work with us to advance gun policy reform in Wisconsin include: Mental Health America, Wisconsin; the Wisconsin Association of School Boards; Moms Demand Action, Wisconsin; Organizing for Action, Wisconsin; League of Women Voters of Wisconsin; Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice; the Wisconsin Council of Churches; End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin; Kids Forward; Peace Action Wisconsin; Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee; Grassroots Northshore; Catholics for Peace and Justice; NAMI-Wisconsin; Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers; National Council of Jewish Women, Milwaukee; City of Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention; Common Ground; the Wisconsin Public Education Network, and Wisconsin Voices, as well as national partners, including Guns Down, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Survivors Lead, NoRA, and Moms Rising.
WAVE staff and volunteers regularly attend events and meetings hosted by coalition groups, such as the Wisconsin Gun Safety Coalition, the Coalition for a People’s Sheriff, the Community Coalition for Quality Policing, the African-American Engagement Roundtable, the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the State Voices Racial Equity group, to name a few.
Over the past year, we also began working with a number of important new allies, including the Wisconsin Public Education Network, Progressive Moms of Wisconsin and Forward Kenosha, but perhaps our most exciting new partnerships have been those we formed with the student-led groups. Following the horrific tragedy in Parkland, Florida, thousands of young people joined the gun violence prevention movement, bringing powerful new messages from dynamic new messengers. WAVE promoted and participated in March for Our Lives in 14 cities across Wisconsin, co-sponsored the 50 Miles More march, and served as the fiscal agent for March for Our Lives, Milwaukee. WAVE wholeheartedly supports and promotes the many student-led walk-outs, vigils, rallies, and marches that have occurred over the past few months.
Public Awareness: Redefining Cultural Norms
WAVE is the Wisconsin media’s go-to organization when seeking a local comment on a story related to gun violence or gun violence prevention. In 2017-18, WAVE staff, board members and trained volunteers in key areas of the state were quoted in at least 460 media hits, with a total reach of 957,310,522 people.
WAVE also uses traditional and social media to push back against the “normalization” of public gun carrying. For example, last August, when the NRA came to Milwaukee to host its first-ever Carry Guard Expo to promote their new “murder insurance” product for trigger-happy gun owners, we organized a large protest rally. The result was that the NRA lost control of the message–all of the stories about the expo also included information about the real life impacts of gun violence. In addition, the negative media coverage attracted the attention of insurance regulators, who effectively shut down the new program.
For the 4th annual National Gun Violence Prevention Awareness Day (Wear Orange Day) in June, WAVE organized four days of events across the state, including rallies, press conferences, vigils, and community gatherings. And in Milwaukee, several downtown buildings turned orange for the evening, including the Bucks training facility, the Gas Light Building, and the Pfister Hotel. At all events we empowered our supporters and the public to take action by standing strong with our highly-visible movement, honoring the memories of lives lost, and demanding change from their elected officials.
Research and Education: Providing Information and Inspiration
To better inform Wisconsin voters and policymakers, WAVE conducts our own primary and secondary research. Currently, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin School of Public Health is examining the relationship between the state’s concealed weapons law and firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Her preliminary findings will be available within the next few months.
In addition, WAVE created a comprehensive voter issue guide focused on each facet of the impact of gun violence, such as public health, the economy, childhood well-being, and community safety. Each area has a detailed explanation of the topic, including relevant statistics, as well as potential solutions and suggested questions that our supporters can ask candidates and elected officials at candidate forums, town hall meetings, or on social media.
Our Activities and Achievements 2016-2017
Over the past year, WAVE helped form the Wisconsin Gun Safety Coalition, a group of organizations and individuals devoted to preventing gun violence and building safer communities. After meeting regularly for several months, the coalition was formally kicked-off at a press conference April 2017. Coalition partners have already worked together to fight the dangerous “permitless carry” bill and, going forward, will work on a proactive, lifesaving agenda, including the advancement of a criminal background check bill.
WAVE volunteers turned out to support the kick-off press conference of the Wisconsin Gun Safety Coalition at the State Capitol. The coalition’s endorsement of a bill to require background checks on every gun sale was also announced at that time. Coalition members include: End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, Dr. Elizabeth Neary, Jean Papalia, Mental Health America of Wisconsin, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Wisconsin Chapter, National Physicians Alliance Wisconsin Chapter, National Association of Social Workers Wisconsin Chapter, Rep. Terese Berceau, Rep. Melissa Sargent, Rep. Lisa Subeck, Rep. Chris Taylor, Sen. LaTonya Johnson, Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, WAVE Educational Fund, Wisconsin Council of Churches, Wisconsin Physicians for Social Responsibility.
WAVE volunteer activists attended legislative hearings, town hall meetings, school board meetings, and face-to-face meetings with elected officials to ensure gun violence prevention is part of the agenda.
Members of our Milwaukee-area action team attended a town hall meeting with their state senator. Of the approximately 30 citizens at the meeting, more than half were there to speak out about the “permitless carry” bill being considered by the legislature. No attendees spoke in favor of that bill, and no other policy topic generated more than a single speaker. Although the senator began the meeting uncommitted on the topic of “permitless carry,” after hearing from so many constituents opposed to the bill, by the end of the meeting she had voiced her opposition to the proposal. Our volunteers then went on to testify against the bill during a public hearing in Madison. The day after the public hearing, Governor Walker stated that he did not see a need for the bill.
Our highly-engaged supporters hosted WAVE education and awareness events in Madison, Milwaukee, Waukesha, Monroe, Appleton and elsewhere. These events included concerts, movie screenings, panel discussions, press conferences, and virtual meetings.
Our Madison group, for example, created a one-day display of 92 pairs of shoes at the Capitol to represent the 92 Americans killed in gun violence each day. The display generated a tremendous amount of media coverage and resulted in many signatures on a petition to pass a federal background check law.
WAVE staff and volunteers gathered signatures on petitions at numerous community events and neighborhood gatherings all across the state, including Fond du Lac, Waukesha, Wauwatosa, Appleton, Madison, Oak Creek and Milwaukee.
After one of the worst mass shootings in American history, WAVE activists gathered signatures at events across Wisconsin’s First Congressional District, and constituent volunteers called on House Speaker Paul Ryan to move forward a bill for universal background checks. The petitions were delivered by WAVE’s volunteers to Speaker Ryan’s staff at his district offices and during mobile office hours.
WAVE volunteer activists advocated to school boards across the state to pass resolutions opposing any change in state law to allow concealed carry on school grounds. At least 15 school districts have now passed resolutions, including: Whitefish Bay, Oak Creek-Franklin, Shorewood, Madison, Nicolet, Fox Point-Bayside, Wauwatosa, Appleton, Brodhead, Kaukauna, Mequon-Thiensville, Monroe, Middleton-Cross Plains, McFarland, and Monona Grove.
WAVE staff held informational sessions for our action teams. Many of our volunteers then went to their own school boards, urging them to pass resolutions opposed to any legislation that would allow guns in schools. After having success with their own school boards, our volunteer teams began recruiting other parents to take similar actions. Our volunteers explained their experiences to other supporters on a statewide conference call that WAVE hosted. Next, the volunteers created an activist toolkit, which they shared widely. As a result of their efforts, more than a dozen districts have passed resolutions, and many more are in the process of doing so.
WAVE volunteers across the state provided local expertise to print and broadcast media outlets.
We trained volunteers to talk to the media about the issue of gun violence prevention and its impacts on their families, neighborhoods, and communities.
WAVE activists participated in rallies and protests across Wisconsin to bring attention to the issue of gun violence prevention.
Gun violence prevention policy is intertwined with many other policies and issues. This past year, WAVE volunteers joined the Women’s March, the March for Science, and Moral Mondays, as well as the Wear Orange, Disarm Hate, and We Need Nine campaigns.