Melissa Joan Hart Calls For Safer Gun Laws After Mass Shootings Hit "So Close To Home"

“I used to believe you couldn’t mess with the second amendment because that’s a threat to our freedom as Americans. But now I can say we are not free as long as weapons of war are allowed in the hands of untrained, unchecked citizens.”

by Kaitlin Kimont

Melissa Joan Hart has called on lawmakers to take action on gun control reform nearly a year after she helped a class of kindergartners escape a school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. That harrowing experience would actually be Hart’s second encounter with gun violence, specifically a school shooting. This week, the actress best known from shows like Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Clarissa Explains It All spoke during a Senate roundtable event and said that while she once believed you “couldn’t mess with the second amendment” because “that’s a threat” to Americans’ freedoms, she now thinks we will never live without fear if things don’t change.

“I’m exhausted. Twelve years ago we were living in Fairfield County, Connecticut and a mentally ill boy that day took his mom’s guns and murdered 26 innocent people in a nearby school to where my children were,” Hart shared on Wednesday, referring to the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. “[That shooting] included 20 first-graders. My son at the time was in the first grade. My entire life changed that day, and my political views changed that day.”

Eleven years later, Hart experienced another close encounter with gun violence when six people were killed in the Covenant School shooting in the Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee on March 27, 2023. On that day, Hart shared on Instagram that she and her husband Mark Wilkerson, whose children went to a school near where the shooting took place, helped “a class of kindergarteners cross a busy highway” as they were trying to escape the shooting through nearby woods.

“As I reached to help the children and help them cross the road, it became clear that whatever they were running from was scarier than these cars in the street. And the fear on their faces and the terror and the confusion as we got them to safety, and then the six ambulances that drove by us and let us know exactly what it happened. These memories will not allow me to stop fighting for ways to keep our children, our communities, and our country safer,” Hart told lawmakers.

“That day, we lost three educators and three third-grade children from the Covenant School, and my youngest son was in the third grade at the time. And once again, tragedy had hit so close to home, and I had to stop and wonder, once again, ‘Will we be next?’”

“I had been a staunch second amendment woman who believed our freedoms could not be infringed upon with new laws,” Hart continued. “Back in 2012, after the shooting at Sandy Hook, I spent months of sleepless nights praying for the families of that nearby town. I started wanting to make sure that that could never happen again, and in digging and educating myself on guns and gun laws across the nation, I learned that laws do change. That in fact, it happens all the time to make our world a safer place.”

In her remarks, Hart referenced how effective MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) had been in helping reduce the drunk driving deaths through “tough, relentless years of battles with politicians.”

“I wanted to see that happen with this situation,” Hart said.

At the roundtable, Hart joined Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), gun violence prevention nonprofit March Fourth, and victims of gun violence to discuss Heinrich’s newly introduced bill, the Gas-Operated Semi-Automatic Firearms Exclusion Act (GOSAFE) Act. The legislation would limit possession of military-style firearms and large-capacity magazines. “As lawmakers, we should be able to draw a line between traditional firearms used for hunting, sport and self-defense, and these weapons of war designed to take human life,” Heinrich said of the bill.

Hart believes change is possible. “I used to believe you couldn’t mess with the second amendment because that’s a threat to our freedom as Americans,” Hart said at the event. “But now I can say we are not free as long as weapons of war are allowed in the hands of untrained, unchecked citizens. We are not free if our children are forced to practice lockdown drills at school and at church. And we are not free if we have to live in fear.”