With two of four gun control bills clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, a contingent of Bay Area mothers has converged on Washington D.C., joining about 180 others intent on getting the ear of their legislators.
They are part of Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, a group that went viral when Indiana mother Shannon Watts watched the carnage at Sandy Hook School unfold in Newtown, Conn.—and then launched a Facebook page at her kitchen table.
The singular message: Enough. Enough gun violence. Enough excuses. Moms say, “Enough.” She called it One Million Moms For Gun Control initially, and then changed it to its current name. But its purpose is the same.
Can they do what Mothers Against Drunk Drivers did and lead changes in attitudes and legislation?
“Hopefully all of us moms together—and dads, and grandparents—can do this,” said Kim Samek, of Los Altos Hills. “The time for debating is over. We want action.”
Wednesday they deploy their “Moms Take the Hill” campaign, meeting with some 50 representatives and senators from 33 states. In the afternoon they will participate in a news conference joined by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whose assault weapon ban bill faces the steepest of odds in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Also scheduled to be in attendance are Sen. Barbara Boxer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Rep. Elizabeth Esty, both of Connecticut, attending.
Los Altos and Los Altos Hills women have been in the forefront, with Samek volunteering as general counsel, and Sara Smirin as Chief Operating Officer.
Co-chairing the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Moms Demand Action are Amanda Mortimer in Ross (Marin) and Christine Tachner in Mountain View. They have been building relationships with existing groups, and joining a candlelight vigil in Palo Alto put together by Organizing For Action: Silicon Valley. , in solidarity with the group’s march in Washington. It drew over 200 people.
They were women like Michelle Sandberg, an Atherton doctor who works at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and talks about gun violence from a public health perspective. She signed an article in the Huffington Post Tuesday with founder Shannon Watts and a Missouri state legislator, Stacey Newman.
For Palo Altan Jennifer DiBrienza , who is part of the dozen from the Bay Area who came to D.C., the Sandy Hook killings hit too close to home.
“I'm a teacher. I was in a classroom for ten years,” the Palo Alto mother of three, said. Two of her children attend Ohlone Elementary School, which, like most California schools, has an open layout. “My kids got wind that something horrible had happened, and they asked questions.”
“I say it’s unlikely but can't say it's not going to happen—it was unlikely at Sandy Hook,” she said. “I don't want to put a big fence around the school, and have my kids going to school in a prison. There's got to be a way to make things safer."
Specifically, Moms Demand Action is asking the mothers to appeal to their Congressional representatives to act on commonsense solutions to address gun violence and its escalation in the United States. They include:
Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines hold more than 10 rounds.
Require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases.
Report the sale of large quantities of ammunition to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,
Ban online sales of ammunition.
New York Sen. Charles Schumer’s background check bill cleared the Judiciary Committee Tuesday by a narrow margin.
“We will not wait for one more horrific mass shooting of our children for legislators to wake up and finally pass needed laws that we know will make a difference,” said Moms Demand Action founder Watts. “As moms, we will remain focused on the safety of our children rather than be influenced or even intimidated by powerful gun industry lobby groups."
DiBrienza is impressed by the size of the 200-person contingent. “These are mothers who have to take their own time and resources and get here," she said. “And they have had to find ways for their kids to be cared for.” The Bay Area group comes from Atherton, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Ross.
For the ones who couldn’t come to Washington, but want to express themselves, there is the “Paper Dolls, Steel Resolve” campaign, Samek said. They’ve asked supporters to make eight paper dolls, representing the statistic that eight children are killed by gun violence each day, and decorate them with their children, then email or tweet the image of them to their Congressional representatives on Wednesday.
“We’re asking people to mail the paper dolls to our national headquarters after we take the hill,” Tachner said. They’ll show up in another campaign, no doubt.
Moms Demand Action For Gunsense in America has changed names since it was started on the fly in December, as One Million Moms For Gun Control.
"It wasn't the name we would have wanted if we had time to think about it," Samek said. "We wanted an active name. This captures what we're trying to do."
The mothers have established three hashtags for anyone wanting to participate in the action Wednesday via Twitter:
Samek knows there are obstacles, but she's heartened by surveys showing wide public support for commonsense legislation. And, laws are getting passed on the state level.
“This time seems to be different,” said Samek. “I'm very hopeful that this time there will be change.
“It's good to be a part of it.”
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