By Francis X. Clines, via The New York Times
The shock of the gun massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six adults last Dec. 14 in Newtown, Conn., has largely dissipated in Congress, which proved unresponsive to proposals for stronger gun safety. But the shock remains for a nationwide group of alarmed mothers organized after the carnage, who are taking to the air waves with the message that a ritual moment of silence to honor the victims on the anniversary is hardly enough. “With 26 more school shootings since that day, ask yourself: Is silence what America needs right now?” the new ad entreats as an intruder masked in black approaches a schoolhouse door.
Far from silence, the group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, is planning to ring bells at gatherings in 35 states on the 14th — alarm bells about the continuing national trauma from gun rampages, which occur on average about once every two weeks, taking a minimum of four lives on each occasion. The planned protests and the new ad, produced in cooperation with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, are part of a steady campaign to push back at the gun lobby’s heft in Congress and statehouses, which enact invitations to civilian gun-packing far more often than gun-safety laws.
The best evidence that the mothers may be having some impact is that gun rights groups are showing up at their protest gathering, publicly brandishing their legally owned firearms in counter demonstrations. These might be viewed as displays of macho swagger, but for the fact that they also include women gun enthusiasts and children.
The gun bearers’ swagger reached a nadir last August when they dared to show up in Newtown to pay homage to the Starbucks coffeehouse policy of tolerating open-carry gun customers in states where it is legal. (With the mothers group applying pressure, that policy was eventually altered—but not to an outright gun ban. Instead Starbucks’ national management now simply requests that customers leave their guns at home.)
The gun-flourishing groups deny they are disturbing anyone’s peace in their displays, like the one last month outside a Dallas restaurant where a local chapter of the mothers group was meeting. “These people were getting out of cars and pulling semi-automatic rifles out of their trunks,” said Shannon Watts, national founder of the mothers campaign.
Group members have also been personally harassed. Ms. Watts told The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis that her home address had been posted online, and that gun activists had left intimidating, misogynistic messages on Facebook. These understandably give the women pause, but ultimately leave them encouraged. “We will never again be silent about gun violence,” said Ms. Watts in a recent statement, getting ready for the 14th.