June 3, 2000
GUNS, GOD, AND CHILDREN
''Is the need for sensible
gun-control a religious issue? You bet it is,'' said Rabbi Eric Yoffie,
President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations at the Million Mom
''The indiscriminate distribution
of guns is an offense against God and humanity. Controlling guns is not only
a political matter, it is a solemn religious obligation. Our gun-flooded
society has turned weapons into idols, and the worship of idols must be
recognized for what it is - blasphemy. And the only appropriate religious
response is sustained moral outrage.''
More than 50 faith groups
participated in the Million Mom March on Mother's Day, an event which
attracted 500,000-750,000 people to the U.S. Capitol. It began in an
interfaith service with an Islamic call to prayer and reading of Scripture
from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Among the organizers: the African
Methodist Episcopal Church, Sikhs, National Council of Catholic Women,
Episcopal Church, United Methodists, American Baptists and Lutherans, many
of whom organized church members to come.
The event was a political
watershed. Mothers, daughters, grandmothers cheered Rosie O'Donnell, the
events' hostess when she said, ''We are giving birth to a movement. ''We are
now women and children demanding to be counted....We are the voice of the
majority of Americans and it is time we are heard. We have had enough of the
stranglehold the NRA has in Congress and Senate. The NRA is buying votes
with blood money.''
Among the Moms' demands of Congress
were ''common sense gun control'' measures such requiring background checks
of those purchasing a handgun at gun shows, built-in locks to child-proof
guns, limiting sales to one weapon per month plus gun registration and
National Rifle Association's Wayne
LaPierre countered that ''registration and licensing schemes'' were, in
fact, ''a controlled burn of the Second Amendment and setting fire to
In reality, however, gun production
is down a third and since the 1980's the percent of men who said they owned
a gun has fallen from 52 to 38 percent. Polls show that 85 percent of
Americans favor registration of handguns and obtaining a license from police
to purchase one.
However, the NRA has registered a
million new members in the last year, making it an even more effective
Many rally speakers movingly spoke
of their losses of family members to gun shots. They ranged from Maryland
Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, both
daughters of Robert Kennedy to Dawn Anna, remembering her daughter, killed
in the Columbine massacre, who said, ''Lauren, we are here, our arms are
wrapped around you and the children of this nation.''
One of the marchers was Charmaine
Jones, who was with a baby and 8-year-old Lashae, who explained why they
came simply, ''Because my daddy died. He got killed by a 16-year-old.''
Even weeks later, words spoken to
those vast throngs of women, remain haunting to me. Dr. Antonia Novello, the
first female Surgeon General asked, ''How can they be old enough to buy a
gun, but not old enough to buy a beer?''
Courtney Love, a singer whose
husband, Kurt Cobain killed himself with a shotgun, noted: ''Suicide is five
times more likely in a house with a gun than without one. Ask a child like
my girl Frances, who will never have a father, ask her if a gun is good
Guess how many of the 32,436
Americans who died of gun shots in 1997 were suicides, and how many were
murders. There were 13,522 homicides and a staggering 17,566 suicides, while
about 1,000 died in accidents.
A leader of Pax Students noted that
a dozen young people are killed by guns every day about the same
number as the 13 innocent victims of Columbine.
What will be the impact of the
Million Mom March?
Gun control advocates ''have always
had numbers on our side, but the gun lobby had passion on its side,''
concedes Naomi Paiss of Handgun Control. ''However, the march demonstrated
grim passion by parents who look at this society and reject its violence and
fatalism about that violence.'' Really? No one answers the Million Mom March
The odds of Congressional action
this year seem slim. Last year, the Senate passed a bill requiring child
safety locks and prohibiting the sale or possession of a semi-automatic
weapon by a juvenile. But the House has no such measures in its bill and
there is a stalemate.
Moms will have to learn to lobby
over the long haul.
Copyright 2000 Michael J. McManus.