Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Sending a message to Congress in 35 words and 700,000 voices

Dozens of people with postcards in bags walking in DC

A heartfelt thank you to all the volunteers from the TOMS community and to our partners at Black & Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium, Everytown, Faith in Action, Giffords, LIVE FREE, March For Our Lives, and Moms Demand Action for making this moment possible.

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It was a February morning in Washington, DC. The weather was dismal. Clouds filled the sky, casting a uniform gray on the stone and concrete buildings that lined the National Mall. A steady drizzle kept most people off the streets. 

But inside the ballroom of the Liaison Capitol Hill, the climate was different. The room buzzed with the energy of volunteers who came from near and far to represent the voices of Americans across the country. Students fastened pins to their jackets, retirees filled thermoses with coffee, and TOMS employees arranged the last of hundreds of tote bags stuffed with postcards into three groups marked Cannon, Longworth, and Rayburn—names corresponding to congressional office buildings.  

Three months earlier, TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie announced the company was giving $5 million to organizations committed to ending gun violence, and that anyone who was passionate about the issue could get involved by going to TOMS.com and submitting a postcard to their representative urging them to pass universal background checks.

Now, following a cross-country road trip to connect with communities affected by gun violence, TOMS employees and partners were joined by hundreds of activists and activists-in-training to hand-deliver upwards of 700,000 of those postcards to members of Congress.

People signing postcards
Young girl standing amongst "End Gun Violence Together" bags
Crowd
People signing postcards
Young girl standing amongst "End Gun Violence Together" bags
Crowd

The morning began with inspiration and activation. Pastor Mike McBride of LIVE FREE led a group prayer. Mark Barden, who founded Sandy Hook Promise after his son Daniel was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, reminded us of the costs of not taking action. And Martin Luther King III quoted from his father before passing the mic to his 10-year-old daughter, Yolanda.

Robin Lloyd of Giffords gave the room a crash course in H.R. 8, the recently-introduced Bipartisan Background Checks Act, and TOMS chief giving officer Amy Smith gave a how-to in lobbying Congress before volunteers lined up to grab tote bags and umbrellas.

And as they were dispatched into the cold streets, our friends Erica Ford of LIFE Camp, Inc, and Matt Deitsch of March For Our Lives got them warmed up.

Crowd of volunteers preparing to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers preparing to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers preparing to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers preparing to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers preparing to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers preparing to deliver postcards

When I say "Peace," you say "Is a lifestyle!"

"Peace!"

"Is a lifestyle!"

"Peace!"

"Is a lifestyle!"

Crowd of volunteers walking to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers walking to deliver postcards
Volunteers walking to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers walking to deliver postcards
Crowd of volunteers walking to deliver postcards
Volunteers walking to deliver postcards

"I cannot be louder than all of you combined!"

"We all we got?"

"We all we need!"

"We all we got?"

"We all we need!"

Crowd walking with umbrellas
Crowd of volunteers in front of the US Capital
Winter Breanne standing in the doorway of the US Capital
Crowd walking with umbrellas
Crowd of volunteers in front of the US Capital
Winter Breanne standing in the doorway of the US Capital

When I say "End gun violence," you say "Together!"

"End gun violence!"

"Together!"

"End gun violence!"

"Together!"

Canvas bag going through metal dectector
"US House of Representatives" rug
US House of Representatives directory
Canvas bag going through metal dectector
"US House of Representatives" rug
US House of Representatives directory

Past security with the voices of 700,000+ Americans in tow, we found our representatives' offices and began knocking on doors. A few of us had made appointments, but most were walk-ins. And as much as we'd prepared, it was anyone's guess how our elected officials would respond when they opened those doors. So what did they do?

They listened.

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with Matt Deitsch

Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with Matt Deitsch

Youth organizer Winter Minisee with Rep Ayanna Pressley

Youth organizer Winter Minisee with Rep Ayanna Pressley

The following day, H.R. 8 entered a markup session—the first of its kind in 8 years—and was passed by the House Judiciary Committee the same day.

From here, it's likely that the full US House of Representatives will put the bill to a vote in the next three weeks—and it's expected to pass.

But there's still a long road ahead, for universal background checks and for the range of conditions that lead to gun violence.

And we're in it for the long haul. Because if there's anything we've learned these past three months, it's that when we come together, we can take a stand on issues that matter, and we can create real change.

Crowd of volunteers standing in front of US Capital
Crowd of volunteers standing in front of US Capital

Written by Daniel Hall
Photography by Al Noelle Walter