From top left, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, and Northfield High School senior Jayla Hemphill speak during a virtual panel Friday at the University of Colorado Boulder Conference on World Affairs. The panelists talked about ending gun violence. (Katie Langford / Staff Writer)
From top left, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Lafayette, and Northfield High School senior Jayla Hemphill speak during a virtual panel Friday at the University of Colorado Boulder Conference on World Affairs. The panelists talked about ending gun violence. (Katie Langford / Staff Writer)
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University of Colorado Boulder’s Conference on World Affairs keynote address, a conversation between U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse and Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts about ending gun violence, was set long before March 22.

But the mass shooting at a south Boulder King Soopers less than three weeks ago that killed 10 people added sobriety and urgency to the Friday discussion of how to solve the American crisis of gun violence.

Watts founded Moms Demand Action after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School to exhort people to do more to reduce gun violence, and it has turned into a national organization with more than 6 million supporters and chapters in every state.

“No one should live in fear of being shot and killed going about their daily lives, and yet in the United States that’s our reality,” Watts said. “We’re the only developed country in the whole world that lives and dies like this, and yet some of our political leaders want you to believe nothing can change, but they’re wrong.”

Moms Demand Action and legislators including Neguse are advocating for federal laws on universal background checks, closing loopholes in current background check laws and other measures.

“We have to continue to show senators that we will have their backs when they act on gun safety,” Watts said. “And when they don’t, we will have their jobs.”

Neguse said he’s talked to countless community members in recent weeks who are “tired of excuses” and encouraged attendees to speak up on the issue. And as he’s received calls from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressing condolences, Neguse said it’s clear they are paying attention.

“They are listening. They are watching,” Neguse said. “They hear us. They hear you. Your voices are far more impactful than mine or any other public official’s could be, so I hope each and every one of you use your voice to make clear your desire, your demand for there to be change.”

One attendee asked Neguse and Watts how Colorado’s system fell short in preventing the Boulder shooting.

Neguse deferred to ongoing work by local and state law enforcement to figure that out. Watts said there’s not always a clear answer, even when so often people want to point to one law that could have prevented a shooting.

“Just like car accidents, there’s not one law that will stop gun violence,” she said. “It wasn’t like they passed seat belt laws and said, that’s it, and it’s not like people don’t die when there are seat belts. They do, but we don’t take seat belts out of cars.”

To reduce traffic deaths, the country has passed seat belt laws, created speed limits, use rumble strips on streets, advanced car technology, requires insurance and tests and licenses — a myriad of ways to make cars safer, Watts said.

“When it comes to gun violence, we haven’t even tried trying,” Watts said. “We can do simple things to stop many of those deaths. They are senseless and they are preventable.”