Mothers Are Taking Leadership on Gun Control


By Allison Stevens

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The day still haunts me–from 25 years ago–when my junior high school went into lockdown after a mass shooting at the nearby grade school. Now, after Newtown, women with children are taking responsibility for getting something done.

Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.
Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.

Credit: sea turtle on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–In the hours after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,Shannon Watts, a mother of five, founded One Million Moms for Gun Control in Indianapolis.

The group is holding demonstrations in New York City on Jan. 21 and co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Jan. 26 to build momentum for legislation to restrict access to guns.

MomsRising, a national grassroots advocacy based in Seattle, is urging its members to petition Congress and the National Rifle Association to stop blocking common sense gun regulations. The group is also calling on Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., and the largest gun dealer in the country, to stop selling assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yesterday its members rallied at the Wal-Mart in Danbury, Conn.–minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School–to ask the retailer to stop selling such weapons.

Veronique Pozner, a mother of one of Sandy Hook’s slain first-graders, has said she wants to play a part in the discussion about the federal response to the rampage.

Moms, in other words, are speaking out as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden try to build consensus for a controversial gun-control package that could include a push for background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Obama is also reportedly considering using the power of his executive office to restrict access to guns.

When mothers speak about slain children, they awaken the primordial parent in all of us, and we are collectively driven to protect our young–at all costs and against all odds.

Compounded Fear

I’m a mother now, and for me the fear is compounded. I don’t want my own children to go through the kind of mass-shooting ordeal that I did.

Twenty-five years ago in my hometown of Winnetka, Ill., a deranged babysitter opened fire at our local elementary school and shot six first graders, killing one, a little boy named Nicholas Corwin. That day is scorched in my memory. I was in junior high school, and my school was in lockdown until we were told that it was safe to emerge because the murderer–Laurie Dann–had shot herself. (Yes, ours was one of the rare mass shootings by a female, the one that must always be cited as the exception to discussions of how young men, with untreated mental illnesses, are the usual perpetrators of these horrific crimes.)

Obama is calling on us, as a society, to come together to make all our children safer.

“We bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children,” Obama said in a memorial service after the Newtown shooting, wiping away tears throughout the speech. “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

If history is any guide, mothers’ powerful advocacy role may turn out to be crucial to our national response to Newtown.

Historical Responses

Back in 1903, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a prominent labor activist, launched the fight for child labor laws with a famous march of “mill children” to the Long Island home of President Teddy Roosevelt.

In the 1980s, Candace Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving and sparked a national movement that has lowered drunk-driving related fatalities by more than 40 percent, according to the Department of Transportation.

Dennis and Judi Shepard started an organization to combat hate crimes after their son Mathew was beaten and left to die because he was gay.

Jeanne Manford founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAGG) after her openly gay son was beaten and hospitalized; and Cindy Sheehan led the anti-war movement in the last decade after her son was killed in the war in Iraq.

The list goes on.

Mothers, of course, have been pushing for gun control for years.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York whose husband was killed and whose son was severely injured during a shooting on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, won a seat in Congress on the issue and ever since has been the leading voice for gun control in the U.S. Congress.

In 2000, hundreds of thousands of mothers descended on Washington, D.C., to participate in the Million Mom March, which took place about a year after the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Now, the bereaved mother Pozner could emerge as a key leader in what happens next.

“As the mother of a 6-year-old victim of a cold-blooded massacre of school children, I am puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I have had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington,” she said in a recent statement.

I have a hunch that if we give moms like Pozner the space to tell their painful stories, people will listen, and act, to prevent more gun violence. I know I will.

Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C. She works for a public relations firm whose clients include MomsRising.org. These opinions are her own.

Utah teachers get free gun training in response to Newtown shooting #WTFnews #guncontrol


Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

By Laura Zuckerman

Thu Dec 27, 2012 9:52pm EST

 

(Reuters) – Kasey Hansen, a special education teacher from Salt Lake City, Utah, says she would take a bullet for any of her students, but if faced with a gunman threatening her class, she would rather be able to shoot back.

 

On Thursday, she was one of 200 Utah teachers who flocked to an indoor sports arena for free instruction in the handling of firearms by gun activists who say armed educators might have a chance at thwarting deadly shooting rampages in their schools.

 

The event was organized by the Utah Shooting Sports Council in response to the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, this month that killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

 

The council said it has typically attracted about 16 teachers each year to its concealed carry training courses. But Thursday’s event near Salt Lake City, organized especially for educators in the aftermath of Newtown, drew interest from hundreds, and the class was capped at 200 for space limitations.

 

“I feel like I would take a bullet for any student in the school district,” Hansen, a special education teacher in a Salt Lake City school district, told Reuters after the training session.

 

“If we should ever face a shooter like the one in Connecticut, I’m fully prepared to respond with my firearm,” she said, adding that she planned to buy a weapon soon and take it to work.

 

The Newtown massacre reignited a national debate over gun safety. President Barack Obama signaled his support for reinstating a national ban on assault-style rifles and urged Congress to act. The National Rifle Association has called for posting armed guards at schools and rejected new gun-control measures.

 

‘HOW DO I KEEP A GUN SAFE?’

 

The National Education Association and a number of school officials criticized the NRA’s stance, but it got a warmer reception in some parts of the West, where hunting and guns are prevalent.

 

Utah is one of a handful of states that allows people with concealed-carry licenses to take their weapons onto school property, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

 

In Arizona, Attorney General Tom Horne on Wednesday jumped into the debate over school security with a proposal to allow any school to train and arm its principal or another staff member.

 

The plan, which was backed by at least three sheriffs, would require approval by the legislature and the state’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer.

 

Clark Aposhian, head of the Utah Shooting Sports Council and a certified firearms instructor, organized the event on Thursday to provide teachers with permits to allow them to carry concealed handguns in the classroom. He waived the usual $50 fee for the course.

 

“I genuinely felt depressed at how helpless those teachers were and those children were in Newtown,” Aposhian said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

 

Utah teacher Kerrie Anderson was not about to participate. She is a choir and math instructor at a junior high school near Salt Lake City, and said her family is “pro-gun” and uses firearms for sports such as target shooting. But she balks at the notion of carrying a weapon into her classroom.

 

“How would I keep that gun safe?” she said. “I wouldn’t carry (it) on my person while teaching, where a disgruntled student could overpower me and take it. And if I have it secured in my office, it might not be a viable form of protection.”

 

Gun-control activists have decried moves to arm teachers and said efforts at curbing gun violence in schools should be tied to tightening firearms laws.

 

“We think it makes a lot more sense to prevent a school shooter from getting the gun in the first place,” said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

 

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary ranks as the second most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. Police say Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother before going to the school, where he committed the massacre and shot himself to death.

 

(Reporting and writing by Laura Zuckerman; Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Steve Gorman)

 

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