There is very little about guns and gun violence that would surprise Jean Andrus anymore.
Andrus is co-founder of Grandmothers Against Violence, a Fort Worth, Texas-based organization founded in response to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida last February.
During the national March for Our Lives that followed in March at locations around the country, Andrus, her fellow co-founders and other supporters marched in t-shirts declaring solidarity with students opposed to gun violence.
“I was amazed at the number of people who came up to me and named a relative or friend who had been affected by guns and gun deaths,” said Andrus, a member of Broadway Baptist Church.
Her comments line up solidly with statistics published by the Pew Research Center last month.
Among the “key findings” about guns is that “a significant share of Americans” – 44 percent – “say they personally know someone who has been shot, either accidentally or intentionally,” Pew reported.
About a quarter of Americans told Pew that “someone has used a gun to threaten or intimidate them or someone in their family.”
Again, none of it surprises Andrus.
“I would have disagreed until I did the March for our Lives,” she said.
Andrus said the survey and the attitudes it uncovers convince her that Grandmothers Against Violence should have been formed much earlier.
“But we didn’t anticipate that our legislators would sit and do nothing” to address the continuing number of mass shootings in the U.S., she said.
One of the goals of Grandmothers Against Violence, she explained, is to press lawmakers into action and to show concerned citizens, wherever they are, how to do the same.
“It’s just a matter of inviting people to join us and to speak up.”
Pew’s research demonstrates there is plenty to speak up about, she said.
One is that guns are pervasive. Thirty percent of Americans own guns and another 11 percent say they live with someone who does. About half grew up in homes where there were guns and 59 percent say they have friends who own firearms.
The survey found that protection is the main reason gun owners – at 67 percent – say they have firearms. Others cite hunting and sport shooting as the reasons.
Most Americans, around 57 percent, say they believe gun laws should be stricter.
“Yet these views differ sharply by party,” Pew found, with 80 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents favoring stricter laws. Among Republicans and “GOP leaners” only 28 percent favor tighter laws on firearms.
“Partisans are also deeply divided over whether it is more important to control gun ownership or protect gun rights,” Pew found. About 76 percent of Republicans say it is more important to protect gun rights than to control gun ownership, while just under 20 percent of Democrats agree with that view.
Americans also disagree on the role stricter gun laws would play in the incidence of mass shootings, according to Pew.
“Nearly half of adults,” the organization reported, “say there would be fewer mass shootings if it was harder for people to obtain guns legally, while a similar share (46 percent) says there would be no difference.”
But Grandmothers Against Violence is pushing the idea that restricting the availability of assault weapons as an effective way to curb mass shooting.
The group has tried to broker meetings between local students concerned about shootings and the NRA and local legislators.
It’s also organized card-writing meetings to press legislators into action and plans to make presentations to churches and civic groups about gun safety laws. Grandmothers Against Violence also provide information on how people can support other groups involved with the same causes, including petition-signing campaigns.
The trends highlighted by the Pew survey and in other research and articles merely underscores how urgent it is for everyone to act, Andrus said.
“I think the most important thing we can do is ask people to join us and to speak up,” she said.