An internal alarm has sounded in mothers across the nation. This bell can't be silenced. We were awoken on Dec. 14 by the nightmare images of 6- and 7-year-olds crying and clinging to teachers as they were led from Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was the unthinkable unfolding before our eyes. These were children just like our own: innocent, filled with optimism and brightness, sent off each day to schools like Sandy Hook Elementary.
I, like many American mothers, looked on for decades as gun violence increased and gun laws loosened. I hoped I could make a difference by raising compassionate children. I hoped that the President, our Congress, and our state and local legislators would act to protect us.
But no more. No more dependence on the actions of others; it is our time as mothers to rise up as a collective force and demand action on gun control.
The morning after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I founded One Million Moms for Gun Control. In just over a month, we have signed up tens of thousands of members and created nearly 75 chapters in cities across our nation. Much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was started to address the deadly dangers of driving while intoxicated through public education programs and lobbying for stricter state and federal regulations, One Million Moms for Gun Control was born to fight for common sense gun control regulations.
Let me be clear: we do not stand for a ban on guns. We stand for our right to protect our children. Our middle-ground solutions to the escalating problem of gun violence in the United States are straightforward:
· Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds.
· Require background checks for all gun purchasers.
· Report the sale of large quantities of ammunition to the ATF.
· Limit the scope of concealed weapons laws at the state level.
The Second Amendment does not make this an "either/or" conversation: Americans can own guns and be responsible; our children can go to school and feel safe; and we can enact gun control laws and honor our forefathers.
The shooting in Newtown wasn't the only mass shooting in America in 2012 -- it was the 16th. Since Columbine in 1999, there have been 31 school shootings in the United States. We have reached a tipping point -- we must admit that gun violence isn't a series of one-off tragedies, but an epidemic caused by unregulated access to guns and ammunition in an already violent culture. Not a single gun law was created or strengthened after Norcross, Oikos University, Seattle, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson ... sadly, too many to name.
But this time will be different, this time mothers are demanding action. On Monday, Jan. 21, One Million Moms for Gun Control will rally at the steps of City Hall. The goal of the rally, which will take place on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, is to reinforce a message of nonviolence and a safer world for our children. Attendees will meet at 9:15 a.m. in Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn (corner of Middagh and Cadman Plaza West), and the event will be followed by a rally at City Hall at 10:30 a.m.
And on Saturday, Jan. 26, One Million Moms for Gun Control will co-sponsor the March on Washington for Gun Control in Washington, D.C., to demand immediate action on common-sense gun legislation. More information on march logistics is available from the March on Washington for Gun Control. For moms who are unable to attend the events in New York City and the Beltway, One Million Moms for Gun Control chapters are planning local rallies and marches across the country on Sat., Jan. 26, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis, New Jersey, and more.
Mothers will not rest until there is change. The alarm has sounded, and we are going to deliver the National Rifle Association and intractable legislators a wake-up call. There are 4 million current members of the NRA, but there are more than 80 million moms in America. The rapid growth of social media, the organizing power of the Internet, and our fierce, boundless love for our children will ensure our success.
To protect the lives of my own five children, I am obligated to create the safest future for them and for the grandchildren I hope to have. It is said that a mother's love for her child is unstoppable. Be sure that One Million Moms for Gun Control is as well.
Follow Shannon Watts on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@shannonrwatts