Last week in Uvalde, Texas, an 18-year-old armed with an AR-15 rifle and high-capacity magazines with hundreds of rounds of ammunition walked into a school and murdered 19 fourth graders and two teachers.

We’re still learning more about how the tragedy in Uvalde unfolded. But we know that solutions need to go deeper than hearts-and-prayer tweets or political posturing.

We must look past the headlines and social media noise and ask ourselves: What is philanthropy going to do about this?

• There are more guns than people in the United States. A 2018 report estimated that there are 393.3 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, enough guns for every single adult and child to own one — and still have 60 million guns spare.

• So far this year, there have been 200 mass shootings in the U.S., an average of more than one a day. The violence in Uvalde came just 10 days after the racist rampage in Buffalo at a neighborhood grocery store and nine days after the shooting at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in southern California. Since last week’s shooting in Texas, there have been at least 11 other mass shootings in the U.S.

• The AR 15-style rifle, dubbed “modern sporting rifles” by the gun industry and which the shooters used in Uvalde and Buffalo to slaughter more than 30 people, is now the most popular rifle in the country.

• More than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine. In 2020, firearms became the leading cause of death among children and teens nationally. Tragically, there are children dying every day in rural, suburban and urban communities from incidents of gun violence that rarely make the national news.

• And communities of color are disproportionally impacted by gun violence. A 2020 report from the John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions noted that Blacks are more than 12 times more likely to be victims of gun homicides than white people. Native Americans/Alaska Natives are nearly four times as likely than their white counterparts. People of Hispanic or Latin American descent are twice as likely to die than non-Hispanic/Latino whites.

Let all this sink in for just a moment.

In the coming weeks, our nation’s gun laws will be debated once again. It’s my deep hope that we support those working to enact policy changes at the local, state and federal level. We as a sector are sometimes misinformed and a bit skittish about funding campaigns calling for legislative action.

Foundations have the power to help support research and advocacy campaigns that lobby for gun safety legislation, including banning semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 and high-capacity magazines, weapons of choice for mass murders. Congress found the will to do so for ten years, and “the body of research now increasingly suggests the 1994 law was effective in reducing mass-shooting deaths.”

Our Bolder Advocacy colleagues note that “foundation support for nonprofits that engage in advocacy, including lobbying and election-related activities, isn’t just legal — it’s important, powerful, and fundamental to democracy.”

In 2021, the gun industry set new lobbying spending record, spending  $15.8 million on lobbying compared to $2.9 million in lobbying from gun control groups. That is more than five times as much. In the first quarter of 2022, these groups have already spent $2 million and gun control groups just $609,000.

Fund for a Safer Future, an effort supported by TFN members the Kendeda Fund and Annie E. Casey Foundation, among others, pools resources to invest in targeted, practical, strategies to reduce gun injuries and deaths.

The organization will host funders-only briefing on Thursday, June 2 at 2 p.m. ET. The briefing is open to all members of the philanthropic community who are interested in learning more about solutions to the growing public health crisis of gun violence and its devastating impacts on American life.

For more information about efforts to stem the tide of guns in America, here are policy agendas and other resources from Everytown for Gun Safety, which works with local, federal, and state governments to enact and implement policies that reduce gun violence; Moms Demand Action, which came about in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and is part of Everytown for Gun Safety; and March For Our Lives, created by young survivors of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

TFN’s staff team, all of us women, includes many mothers of young children. They are having yet another series of difficult conversations with their kids about what to do if a “bad guy” comes into their school. When checking in with these TFN moms last week, I was so dismayed to realize how routine mass shooter drills are for this generation of little kids, some barely toddlers, who are coming of age in the 10 years since Sandy Hook.

Our children deserve better from this world. Better from us.

We have so much work to do.

How to Help

Family and community members attend a vigil in Uvalde on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. Photo by Gabriel Romero/

Uvalde Strong Survivors Fund will provide direct financial assistance to the survivors of the deceased and those directly affected by this tragedy. One hundred percent of the contributions donated to this fund will go directly to victims and survivors of this atrocity in partnership with National Compassion Fund. Donate here.

Uvalde Strong Fund is an emergency relief fund to support area nonprofits that will provide long-term assistance, including mental health services, in the Uvalde community. Donate here.

Additional Resources: 

Lessons from Atlanta & Milwaukee | Improving Community Safety Through Public Health Strategies, The Annie E. Casey Foundation


Featured image at top: Jordan Vonderhaar/ Getty Images