When Jenna Fischer temporarily moved to London for a project last year with her family, she fell in love with the city but also couldn’t wait to get back home to America.
“It was such a cool, really exciting adventure for my family, [but] I was very homesick for America,” she told PEOPLE at the 2016 Brady Center Brady Bear Awards Gala Wednesday night, where Plan B Entertainment co-president Dede Gardner and philanthropist David Bohnett were honored for their work on preventing gun violence and President Bill Clinton received the organization’s James Brady Leadership Award.
But on the day she and her family were scheduled to arrive back home, the actress was shocked to learn about a mass shooting in Lafeyette, Louisiana at a screening of “Trainwreck.”
“I just felt scared and sad that was happening in my home,” says Fischer. “This place that I couldn’t wait to get back to was having these problems.”
The shooting spurred Fischer into action, and she began doing research on the Brady Bill, which requires federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States.
“I found out that there are two things that weren’t included on the bill, internet sales and sales at gun shows,” she says. “So I started researching, why haven’t we closed that loophole? Who’s working on that?”
That led her to the Brady Center, an organization that “develops and implements extensive public health and safety programs and utilizes the courts to reduce gun violence,” according to its mission statement.
As a mom to two young children, the star was also “shocked to find out how many shootings happen because children find guns and accidentally shoot themselves or others,” she says. “No parent should have to lose a child, and no parent should have to lose a child because of a gun that was in their home, that they put in their home that their child found accidentally.”
For the actress, one of the most important messages for her to spread is urging “gun owners to keep their guns unloaded and locked away,” she says. “When my child goes on a playdate, I ask the parents, ‘Are you a gun owner and how do you keep your guns stored?’ I need to know that in the same way that I need to know if they have a fence around their pool so my kid doesn’t fall in.”
“I really want to help encourage the safest storage and ownership of guns,” she explains.
Fischer’s now become very passionate about the issue and believes advocating for the prevention of gun violence is something she was “called to do.”
Adds the star: “Someone else has been called to work on the problem of homelessness or to work on the problem of not enough people having clean water, and these are all worthy causes. If we all say yes to those callings, then we make the world better for everyone. So this is my yes.”
•Reporting by SCOTT HUVER