Advocating for gun safety with Jennifer Stein

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stein

Jennifer Rand Stein can lay claim to many titles. She is a former attorney, mother of two college students, blogger, freelance legal researcher, small business owner, colorectal cancer survivor and nonfiction writer. Many know Stein, 54, as a political activist.

After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in high school, she dedicated much of her life to fundraising for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

But in 2012, Stein had a Eureka moment. The Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting occurred, and the focus of Stein’s advocacy began to shift.

“I found out about this horrific mass shooting, and all of my advocacy and activism and passion, all of a sudden, was much more outwardly focused. No one in my family or no one I knew had actually ever been involved in a shooting. But I just knew that it could happen, and that was terrifying to me,” Stein said last weekend.

The day after the shooting, Stein joined a small Facebook group that was advocating for public safety measures that protect people from gun violence. This Facebook group ended up becoming a grassroots movement called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

She quickly became a group leader for the Montgomery County chapter, which eventually led her to her current position as data manager of Maryland Moms Demand Action.

“I’ve been very blessed, not in having all these health issues, but in being in a position where I can do volunteer work and give back to the community. I think about the next generation of adults. I think about them, I think about their friends, and I want to help,” Stein said.

Stein has seen the changes brought about by her work with Moms Demand Action in the 2018, 2019 and 2020 elections.

“We were canvassing, phone banking and texting in Virginia, and look at what we did. We flipped the House to a gun sense majority, some would say Democratic majority. That certainly didn’t make me want to do this less. I feel like this works — grassroots organizing and hard work. The unglamorous hard work of activism, it works. So I kept at it,” Stein said.

Stein fundraised and canvassed for the 2020 elections, but even once Biden’s victory was announced, Stein knew her work was not done until they flipped the Senate. And they did.

“If I seem happy on such a dreary day, it really does have a lot to do with the fact that I think that our country is now going to be so much safer in so many different ways. We’ll leave a better country for our kids. It’s all been about delayed gratification,” Stein said.

Stein is a member of Temple Sinai in the District, a place that supports both her Jewish and political identity. Often, the sermons are in support of social justice issues that Stein is passionate about, and she is part of a gun violence prevention group that was started at Temple Sinai.

“One thing I really love about Temple Sinai is that they’ve used social justice as part of being Jewish. Tikkun olam, saving the world. That really is a big part of who we are as Jews. We care about what happens to other people, even if they don’t look like us.”

Stein is hoping to lay claim to yet another title, novelist. She is pursuing her dream of writing fiction and plans to travel to Israel for inspiration once the pandemic is over.

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