When voters in Maine and Nevada head to the polls on Tuesday, they will decide whether to expand background checks for gun buyers.
For Julianne Moore, it is vital that both ballot measures pass — which is why she was recently in Nevada to meet with voters and volunteers from Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, an organization dedicated to promoting gun violence prevention.
Last month, Moore traveled to Nevada to encourage voters there to support Question 1, which, if passed, would require a background check on anyone in the state trying to purchase a gun.
If such initiatives are adopted in both Maine and Nevada, more than half of the U.S. population will live in states that require a background check on every gun sale.
“The majority of Americans want universal background checks,” Moore tells PEOPLE. “Even gun owners — responsible gun owners. You can find ways to protect the Second Amendment and still ensure the safety of all people.”
Echoing the statistics of other gun violence prevention advocates, she says that in the 18 states that require universal background checks for gun sales, “shootings [of police] are down by half, domestic violence is down and suicides are down.”
Polling shows Question 1 has double-digit public support, but it is also opposed by many of Nevada’s sheriffs and its governor, who argued it would be ineffective. (The link between background checks and a criminal’s access to guns is tricky to analyze.)
Moore, 55, became a staunch advocate for gun safety following the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. She prevented her daughter from seeing any of the news coverage following the killings, but then she discovered she wanted to do more.
“In trying to keep the news of the shooting away from my daughter, I realized I wasn’t protecting her at all,” Moore explains. “I realized the only way I can protect my daughter and all children is by becoming involved in gun safety. People need to realize a gun is a machine, and it comes with a tremendous responsibility, and I thought, ‘I am not a responsible person if I don’t lend my voice to these efforts.’ ”
So the Hunger Games and Children of Men star joined forces with Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the U.S., to launch the Everytown Creative Council, which includes members of the creative community who support gun violence prevention.
“It’s about safety and preventing gun violence,” Moore tells PEOPLE. “Growing up, I didn’t feel like there was a problem in the U.S. with guns. I knew plenty of people who had guns. Ronald Reagan signed the assault rifle ban, and suddenly the NRA became a huge lobbying force, and guns became an untouchable issue.”
But instituting controls on who can purchase guns “is just common sense,” Moore says.
“Just look at what we did with cars,” she says. “When automobiles were first introduced, people died in car crashes, so we made them safer. That’s what we need to do with guns. I don’t want to get rid of guns, I just want to improve safety in this country. It took a culture change for improvements to car safety — people demanded it.”
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When Moore went to Nevada to talk to voters about Question 1 and meet with Moms Demand Action volunteers, she says she was struck by who she met.
“It was amazing,” Moore tells PEOPLE. “These are such wonderful people who are so, so deeply dedicated. … There are a lot of passionate people out in Nevada, and so many people and communities have been affected by gun violence. We are bringing all of these communities together to talk about this issue.”
There Moore says she met a gun owner who supports gun safety but is worried his right to bear arms will be quashed.
“He said, ‘Often people talk about guns and crime,’ ” but he said it was important to have guns to protect ourselves against danger,” Moore recalls. “Our major concern is taking guns out of the hands of people who may be a threat to themselves or others.”
For Moore, Tuesday’s ballot measures are about much more than protecting citizens from gun violence.
“This is about us finding our voice as a society and coming together for change,” Moore says. “That is how you’re going to affect change in the United States, and that’s how we’re going to get the politicians to listen.”