(Editor’s Note: This story was republished in part at Better.net in alignment with a partnership between the two nonprofits: The Record Community News and Make it Better Media Group.)
Don’t call Bailey Morris an activist. Or if you do, don’t mind if she cringes.
It’s not that she dislikes the term. It has just never applied to her. That is until a gunman shot more than 40 people gathered at a community parade in the town up the street.
“I was just so sad and mad after Highland Park,” said Morris, a Winnetka resident. “I felt that way after other mass shootings, but this was was so close to home, and it was new. … The day, the venue, it all just felt like, ‘I can’t believe how we’ve gotten here.'”
The attack on July 4 in Highland Park, which resulted in seven deaths, led Morris to action and she brought a group of locals with her. Morris organized a training session on how to use a phone bank to help elect candidates who support stricter gun laws at the federal level.
Twenty-five local women showed up to the Winnetka Community House on Wednesday, July 13, to get to work, while another 75 watched via Zoom.
The inspired women joined forces with the campaign of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, of Georgia, who was seated mid-term in 2021 and faces a polarizing November challenger in former football star Herschel Walker.
While searching for ways to contribute in the fight for common-sense gun legislation, Morris first looked locally. But she found lawmakers who already supported and are fighting for gun control. So she zoomed out.
“What can we do in a place that makes an impact and can we get it passed on a federal level,” she said, adding, “You can make an impact somewhere else. A lot of people don’t do anything because you feel that you can’t do anything. But what’s decide in your state impacts what happens in my state.”
Georgia is a swing state, and Warnock’s victory in 2021 helped flip the Senate toward a Democratic majority. He supports universal background checks and restrictions on assault-style weapons. His opponent’s stance is unclear, as Walker has offered no public support for further gun control.
A November victory for Warnock would help the Democrats hold serve in the Senate chamber, a necessary component to passing more national gun laws.
Morris and company are helping the Warnock campaign via a phone bank, a system used to cold call Georgia voters and get a sense for their stance on the Warnock-Walker race.
On Wednesday, the participants learned how to use a computer program that sets them up with voter phone numbers and a script for the conversation.
Winnetka’s Annie Elder was one of the 25 women going through the training and like, Morris, was compelling to get involved, no matter what the work was.
“I really didn’t have a choice but to get involved,” she said. “We are all wanting to feel like we could do something.
“They feel like this is going to be a tight race and groundwork can make a difference … and hopefully over time we can change the culture.”
Both Morris and Elder knew individuals who participated in the March Fourth rally and march in Washington, D.C., that happened on the same day as the phone bank, Wednesday, July 13. The event featured parents from Highland Park, Uvalde and Buffalo demanding Congress to pass an assault-weapons ban.
Neither of the women could attend the march, but made sure to get involved at home.
“This is our way to support them,” Elder said.
And their message to you? You can do the same.
“It’s really out of my comfort zone, to be an activist and even say that word and connect it to myself,” Morris said. “It’s easy for people who live in these communities to sit back and not do anything, but we are the ones who have the resources to do something, so I wanted to try to do something.
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