Vol. 9, No. 20
May 17-23, 2001
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A Year After a Million Moms Marched,
I’m Still Thinking about More Sensible Gun Laws

by Martha Blume

One year ago on Mother's Day, May 14, 2000, my family and I marched on the Mall in our capital in support of "more sensible gun laws." At that time I could not, for the life of me, understand how anyone could be opposed to the Million Mom March agenda.

In the past year I have read articles and e-mails both for and against gun control. I have read countless accounts of gun deaths. I have shouted in outrage and cried in despair as I try, like other Americans who care about the issue, to find real solutions to gun-related violence in America.

The Million Mom March Foundation has made some modest political gains in the past year. Its biggest gain has been the rapid grass-roots organizing that has resulted in 230 chapters in cities across the country. Yet a recent editorial from a Southern gun-control advocate has me almost convinced we're going about it all wrong.

Apparently in some parts of America, most people see nothing wrong with having lots of guns available to children as long as they know how to use them properly and safely. And Bill Burton's recent column in Bay Weekly [April 5-11] almost had me convinced that a mandatory gun-safety curriculum in schools is a good thing.

One thing I have learned is that the gun-control issue is not as black and white as I naïvely thought it was a year ago. Many people, for many reasons, feel that they have the right to own a gun or guns. The best thing gun-control advocates and the National Rifle Association can do is talk, not point virtual triggers at each other.

However, there are some issues that for me will always be black and white:

1) In no case should semiautomatic weapons, including those weapons "grandfathered" under the 1994 assault weapons ban, be circulating on the streets. The NRA opposed the assault weapons ban and sponsored its attempted repeal.

2) Convicted felons and persons with restraining orders, as in cases of domestic violence, should under no circumstance be allowed to purchase a gun. Thus mandatory federal background checks at gun shows, flea markets and on the Internet must be enacted and enforced nationwide. The NRA defends the rights of private collectors to sell their guns whenever, wherever and to whomever.

3) Concealed weapons should not be allowed in public places by anyone other than law enforcement.

4) A permit for the purchase of any guns and a gun-safety course for first-time gun owners should be required nationwide.

5) The Child Gun Safety and Gun Access Prevention Act should be enacted. This proposal requires parents to keep loaded firearms out of reach of children and holds gun owners criminally responsible if a child gains access to an unsecured firearm and uses it to injure him or herself or someone else. The NRA opposes GAP.

I am still not convinced that schools should be mandating gun-safety courses when other sacrifices are already being made due to time and money constraints. I refer to cuts in music and arts programs that many schools are facing. Perhaps gun-education programs do demystify guns for kids. Still, that guns have become so prevalent in our society that gun-safety courses even need to be considered, along with metal detectors and armed officers in schools, and drills to prepare students for Columbine-type massacres, is outrageous. Is anyone else out there outraged?

Second Amendment advocates talk about their rights, but the rights of my children are infringed upon daily when they have to fear for guns and when schools have to enact curricula and drills in response to guns that are too readily available. If it were up to me, guns would be completely out of circulation, save for hunting and law enforcement. Relatives in Europe and Scandinavia tell us that gun-related violence is almost non-existent there because people don't have guns.

But I am in a muddle as to where we reasonably go from here. I am not a mother who has lost a child to gun violence. I am not a gun owner. I do not hunt or practice target-shooting or come from a culture that does. I do not live in a violent neighborhood. So I feel I cannot speak with surety, in black and white language, as some gun control advocates and gun rights advocates feel they can.

But I am an American and if the Second Amendment has to stay with us and has to be interpreted as upholding any person's right to own a gun, then I feel that we need an additional amendment. It should say something like this: The right of the people to feel safe from gun violence in their homes, neighborhoods, schools, places of worship, employment, on the streets and in any other public places shall not be infringed.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly