“I saw that [Everytown For Gun Safety] had fewer followers on Instagram than the NRA, which to me seemed odd, considering almost everyone I know supports common sense gun reform,” Ria Browne tells HelloGiggles in an email on Thursday afternoon, February 22nd. While many would hardly give an observation like that a second thought, Browne knew that something needed to be done — so she took the opportunity and started a movement.
Browne first noticed the Instagram imbalance in the days following the tragic Parkland shooting, when a gunman opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 17 people. On February 16th, Browne observed that Everytown For Gun Safety (a nonprofit organization that works to end gun violence in the United States and opposes the NRA) had 136,000 Instagram followers, in comparison to the NRA’s 545,000. By Sunday, February 18th, Everytown’s follower count had risen by 23,000; the NRA’s by just 1,000.
To Browne, a New York-based real estate agent and mother of two, this was no coincidence. She’d already been casually urging her followers and friends to follow Everytown, but on Sunday, she made things more formal. She wrote out the stats on a piece of notebook paper, took a photo, and uploaded it to Instagram. In the caption, she asked people to follow Everytown, spread the movement, and use the hashtag that became the name of her campaign: #safetyinnumbers.
As you can probably tell, Browne is a passionate gun safety advocate. She’s organized educational events about common sense gun reform, held online fundraisers, and more. She is not affiliated with Everytown, but she has been a supporter of the nonprofit for several years. Because she’s so familiar with Everytown’s work, she thought the #safetyinnumbers movement would be a good way to unite concerned citizens.
“In order to get people excited, I set a goal that we could all strive to reach. It is more of a symbolic number, but it gives us all a sense of being able to overcome the terrible violence by banding together to overtake the gun lobby.”
All week long, Browne documented Everytown’s rising follower count as people spread the word and gave the account a follow. The movement even got a boost from a slew of celebrities, including Olivia Wilde, Zoe Kazan, Ilana Glazer, and Rachel Antonoff.
On Thursday, it happened: Everytown For Gun Safety exceeded 549,000 followers — the amount that the NRA had at the time.
“I was so nervous and excited because we reached a tipping point,” Browne tells HelloGiggles, about the moment Everytown’s follower count hit the mark. “And it seems to have gained speed, not slowed down, since then!”
As soon as Everytown hit the goal, Browne declared a new one: one million followers.
Browne likes to think of this movement as a small first step towards real action and change. “I think it means that thousands of people have taken this new goal of reaching a million followers and made it their personal mission as well. I planted a seed and I’m so grateful that so many people wanted to help it grow into this amazing thing,” she says.
When asked why she thinks this movement, though seemingly small, is important, Browne has a lot to say:
Click here to follow Everytown on Instagram, here to learn about gun safety reform, and here to learn about the March For Our Lives, being organized by Parkland shooting survivors — because no matter how small, every action we as a community take to support gun reform is an important one.