Sophia Bush got her first gun — a .22 rifle — at age 12.
“Going to the range was the thing my dad and I loved to do together and something that I really took to,” the actress, 37, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “Riflery, and then marksmanship in general, became a passion of mine and over the years has been something that I’ve continued to pursue. It proved to be both a lot of fun and a good skill set in my line of work.”
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The nearly lifelong gun owner also sits on the Creative Council for Everytown for Gun Safety. “I’m a really passionate advocate for responsible gun ownership and for much stricter legislation around gun ownership,” Bush says. “It feels a bit mental that we wouldn’t regulate guns in the same way that we regulate cars, for example. You have to pass a test, have insurance, get your qualifications checked.”
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Beginning on National Gun Awareness Day on Friday, June 5 and lasting through Sunday, June 7, Everytown will virtually host its annual Wear Orange campaign to fight for a future free from gun violence.
“The campaign started in Chicago, where Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in 2013 at 15 years old. Her friends wore orange in her honor, and since then orange has been the defining color of the gun-violence-prevention movement,” Bush says. “When we can get entire cities to turn orange, entire social media feeds, we can really garner some attention and spark conversations.”
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The One Tree Hill alumnae felt the effect of gun violence firsthand when her second cousin Christina-Taylor Green was shot and killed at age 9 in the 2011 Tucson shooting. “Anyone out there who doesn’t think it could happen to them is thinking on borrowed time,” Bush says.
She also understands how overwhelming the issue can feel. “People look at something like gun violence, they look at something like systemic racism, they look at something like political corruption, and they think, ‘How am I ever going to do something about that?’ ” Bush continues. “That feels big. That feels far away. They aren’t as tuned in to how close the effect of issues like those are. It’s up to all of us to remind ourselves that if this has happened to a family somewhere, it’s happened to our family.”
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Though this year’s Wear Orange event has gone virtual, Bush says supporters can still advocate for change from home.
“Every single one of us has a platform now — that’s been one of the incredible benefits of the democratization of the internet,” she says. “If this is important to you, post about it, talk about it. Offer some facts to the people who are in your circle. Figure out how you can have a conversation publicly and how you can have a conversation at home and to make sure that you’re doing both. Your platform is yours, and you can use it for the betterment of society.”
As protesters around the country continue to rally for reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd, “it feels incredibly clear that organizations like Everytown, and campaigns like Wear Orange, really matter,” Bush says. “We have the power to remind our lawmakers that they work for us, not the other way around; that we want to be listened to, that we want safer communities, safer schools, safer homes.
“We should be able to end gun violence. That’s really the point of Wear Orange.”
To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:
• Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
• ColorofChange.org works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.
• National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.