Meet a Mom: Meet Kitty Brandtner, Founder of March Fourth! | Chicago North Shore Moms

Hello friendly faces!  It’s that time of the week!  We’re back with a new CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law. This week we’re introducing the Winnetka mom of three young children taking on the mission to federally ban assault weapons now, the founder of March Fourth, Kitty Brandtner. In this interview, Kitty tells us how she and a few amazing women launched March Fourth just two days after the July 4th massacre, mobilized 500 boots on the ground and 10’s of thousands virtual supporters at the D.C. rally on July 13, 2022, and what’s next for March Fourth. Welcome, Kitty!

 

Kitty Brandtner speaks at the podium at the march to end gun violence on July 13, 2022. Over 500 supporters, including 100 survivors from Highland Park and Uvalde rally for a federal assault weapons ban at the Capitol. Photo credit: Catherine Moore photography and O Hello Media, courtesy of Kitty Brandtner.


 

Hi Kitty! Please introduce yourself. Where did you grow up, where do you live now? 

Hi, I’m Kitty Brandtner. I’m from Winnetka. I went to Clemson University for a semester, transferred to the University of Iowa, moved to Chicago and have been working at LaSalle Network in sales for the past 13 years. I have 3 kids, a daughter who is 5 and twin boys who are 2.

 

What is your full time occupation?

I am a Senior Director at LaSalle Network and Founder of March Fourth.

 

Where you were you and your family celebrating July 4th this year?  

I was ten minutes from Highland Park in Winnetka, IL at our village parade – my kids’ first parade.

 

What did you do when you started hearing about an active shooter not 10 minutes from where you were?

My sister was with me with her family, and she owns CryoPure Spa in Highland Park. One of her friends called her and said they were running from a shooter. We were trying to process this fragmented information while encouraging our kids to wave to floats that celebrate our country. It was the most surreal juxtaposition. My sister immediately said, “I’m going home.” After a few minutes, my husband and I decided to grab our kids and do the same. Looking at twitter and fielding calls from friends… we realized this was, in fact, real – and it wasn’t just a shooter, it was an active shooter with an assault weapon. The shooter was at large.

We sheltered in place. We learned about Aiden McCarthy who was at a friend-of-a-friend’s home after being separated from his parents. I cried for the rest of the day and night.

 

Over the next 24 hours a lot of information was available about what had happened. A mixture of anger, sadness and hopelessness permeated the air around us all. How did you began to process everything?

On the 5th of July, I started posting questions to my Instagram as an ignorant citizen asking things like “Why would a human NEED an AR-15?” or “What is stopping the President from drafting an executive order to ban these weapons?”… the more I posted, the more feedback I got that so many people wanted the same thing: assault weapons banned.

My last post of the night, at 8pm, I wrote this: “Ok last post tonight. The long and short is, I’d like to organize a peaceful protest in DC next week and basically stay until they f*cking ban assault weapons. It’s a long shot. Got it, thanks. We are smart women (men welcome too but have heard from mostly women) with resources – let’s use them. I refuse to raise my kids in this environment. I need to try SOMETHING.”

And this: “Don’t have all the details yet, but would like to know the size of the crowd we can create.”

Along with this: “If you are interested in joining please message me with your email here ASAP.”

 

You started March Fourth just two days after the Highland Park July 4th Parade shooting. From graphics, to your trip to D.C. and keeping social media current with valuable calls to action, walk us through how this all began. How did you manage to do this so fast?

I didn’t quite realize it at the time but that personal Instagram thread was essentially a call to action. The next morning I awoke to hundreds of responses. DMs on Instagram, texts and e-mails…they all said the same thing, “I’m In. How can I help?”

On July 6th, March Fourth was born. We created a Slack Channel after the text chains became too chaotic… Tara named the movement March Fourth (after the Fourth of July parade), and we were off to the races. The mission of March Fourth is to federally ban assault weapons. These weapons, like the AR-15, were created to kill as many people as possible in seconds, as effectively as possible. They simply shouldn’t be accessed by civilians.

 

 

Soon we had committees of people in DC who could help: People who could order t-shirts; people who could facilitate in-kind donation requests; people who could get with HP Survivors to ask if they’d like to come share their stories with legislators in DC. Sarah initiated outreach to Uvalde, and suddenly we had 100 people between HP & Uvalde willing to come to DC. We raised $250k in 5 days so we could pay for flights and hotels for any survivor and victim.

This group of volunteers made magic happen in a matter of hours and days. We had meetings on the Hill as a result of lobbyists who are from the North Shore and put their reputations on the line so that families of mass shootings could share their stories with legislators. It all is overwhelming, and continues to amaze me.

 

Photo credit: Catherine Moore photography and O Hello Media, courtesy of Kitty Brandtner.

You mentioned in one of your Instagram Stories that you have no political or law background. How did you manage to obtain so much valuable and correct information right from the get go?

The saying “teamwork makes the dream work,” is pretty applicable here. I just listened, and those more educated and experienced than I were willing to share, and break things down in layman’s terms and be patient as I absorbed everything.

This team at March Fourth is the most incredible group of people I’ve ever worked with. We are all in this together.

 

Kitty Brandtner sits next to the parents of a Uvalde shooting death victim Alexandria “Lexi” Aniyah Rubio, 10. Here Congressman David Cicilline (Rhode Island 1st District representative and a co-sponsor of HR 1808 ban on assault weapons) speaks with them.
Photo credit: Catherine Moore photography and O Hello Media, courtesy of Kitty Brandtner.

 

H.R. 1808, a federal ban on assault weapons, has passed in the House. What happens next?

Yes, the House passed H.R. 1808 and now it goes to the senate for a vote. The bill in the Senate is called S.736, where it would require the support of at all 50 Democrats and at least 10 Republicans to defeat a guaranteed filibuster.

 

Why is this mission so important to you?

I refuse to believe that it’s “okay” that we have to raise our kids in an environment in which weapons of war are accessed by anyone. I refuse to believe I need to just get used to being terrified sending my kids to school, because mass shootings are simply part of American life.

After Uvalde and then HP my first instinct was to move to Toronto. The risk decreases significantly because these weapons cannot be accessed. But my husband told me we can’t just run away…so I realized that the America we love CAN be the America we live in-it just needs to change.

 

How many volunteers do you have to date? Where can our readers sign up to volunteer and join the mission of March Fourth?

There are 43 core volunteers as of today (this doesn’t include the 15+ we’ve onboarded over the past 48 hours) so about 60 people behind the scenes. Anyone who supports this mission can fill out our volunteer interest form here.

 

How can people support the work that March Fourth is doing and learn more?

Follow March Fourth on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn.

We will need to fundraise quite a bit – As of July 29th, we were at zero dollars because all of the remaining former proceeds were divided between survivors and victims of HP & Uvalde through Victim’s First. This was an extremely worthy cause. We had originally used GoFundMe to raise money, but this platform was a challenge, to say the least, so we launched a new donation platform and held our first fundraising event at Ravinia Festival on August, 5th. We’ll be holding many more fundraisers upcoming so please stay tuned. The funds will be used to continue to mobilize around one mission: To federally ban assault weapons, RIGHT NOW.

 

March Fourth Fundraiser at Ravinia Festival August, 5, 2022. Photo credit: Kitty Brandtner.

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