As a mother, she had to act. When a shooter killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a year ago, Angie Villescaz felt the tears – and determination – well up in her. She had attended that very same elementary school years ago, and she wanted to do everything in her power to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.

So she started organizing to protect children from gun violence. As did Jennifer Hellmer, a mother whose children go to school not far from the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, the site of a mass shooting in March. Activism also gripped Delaney Tarr, who survived the shooting that killed 17 students and staff members at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

School shootings in America have become numbingly familiar and leave many people feeling hopeless. But this crucible of profound shock and grief has also spurred some to become agents of change – people like Ms. Villescaz, Ms. Hellmer, and Ms. Tarr. The Monitor interviewed all three about their journey as activists for more restrictive gun laws, particularly in red states that value gun rights.

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The crucible of profound shock and grief after school shootings has also spurred some people to become agents of change. One year after Uvalde, three activists share their stories.

“This word, ‘activist,’ it meant nothing – and meant everything,” says Ms. Tarr, now a suburban reporter for a small Atlanta newspaper chain. Her observation captures both the drive and the frustration of those fighting the uphill battle to do something – anything – in a country that stands alone among its wealthy peers in losing children to gun violence.

Polling shows that high-profile shootings usually shift public opinion toward support for greater restrictions on guns, though the effect tends to fade and doesn’t easily translate into legislative action. But what also sprouts in the aftermath of school shootings – and may be more durable in the long run – is grassroots activism.

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