From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presbyterians Urged To Join Million Mom March on Nation's Capital

Date 26 Apr 2000 12:58:16

Note #5872 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


	Presbyterians Urged To Join Million Mom March on Nation's Capital

	Rallies in 20 other cities to coincide with protest seeking ‘sensible gun

	by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Presbyterians are being urged to march on the nation's
capital or to join rallies in nearly two dozen cities this Mother's Day as
part of the Million Mom March, an event aimed at prodding Congress into
enacting gun control laws.

	"I'm very excited by this rally," said Doug Grace, outreach coordinator for
the Presbyterian Washington office and the denomination's Million Mom March
coordinator, adding that he believes the event could help shape gun control
dialogue during this year's political campaigns. "This isn't a liberal or
conservative issue. This is middle America people who are concerned about
guns. Presbyterians are like other Americans. They really care about their
kids and are concerned about the misuse of guns."

	Grace, whose e-mail in-box has been inundated with requests from
Presbyterians for information on the May 14 rally, said he hopes at least
250-500 Presbyterians will turn out at the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Overall, organizers said they expect about 100,000 mothers to gather at the
mall and a million mothers nationally at rallies in 20 cities, including Los
Angeles; Atlanta; Portland, Ore.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Austin, Texas.

	The Million Mom March is a national movement of mothers who have joined
together to demand sensible gun laws that protect children. Some are mothers
who have lost children, husbands, siblings and friends to gun violence or
gun accidents. Others are mothers who have not lost anyone to gun-related
activity and want to keep it that way.

        "These women said, ‘In the name of God, this (gun violence) has got
to stop,'" said retired Presbyterian minister, the Rev. James Atwood of
Springfield, Va., a long-time gun control advocate, who is serving as
interfaith coordinator for the national campaign. "So on their own they got
a permit to come to Washington, and told other mothers across the country,
and other women and men what they were doing and it has swept the country.
It's the most exciting thing I've been involved in in 26 years of working in
the (gun control) movement. This is the most exciting and hopeful thing I've
seen in America."

	Atwood, a former missionary in Japan, is working to involve different faith
groups across the country in the Million Mom March. He said the event has
the endorsement of groups ranging from Protestant, Catholic and Jewish
faiths, and "we're hoping to get the Muslim community officially endorsing
us," he said.

	Grace said the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has
advocated sensible gun laws, while the General Assembly Council endorsed the
Million Mom March at its February meeting in Louisville.

        "This isn't for all out banning guns," Grace said. "This is focusing
on handguns and it's for sensible gun safety laws. Everything that basically
the General Assembly has said. The rally really is not anti-gun. It's not
coming off saying, ‘Guns ought to be banned.' It's about sensible gun

	Among the gun control measures organizers are demanding are licensing and 
background checks for gun owners, national registration of handguns, minimum
safety standards for guns, and safety locks and childproofing technology for

	 National Capital Presbytery has endorsed the event and is involved in
planning, according to Grace, who said other presbyteries and sessions have
also endorsed the Million Mom March.

	"So there's a lot of movement out there and support," he said.

	A breakfast at Western Presbyterian Church, 2401 Virginia Ave., NW, in
Washington will kick-off at 8 a.m. The demonstration will begin with an
interfaith service in the middle of the National Mall at 10 a.m. Talk show
hostess Rosie O'Donnell will be among the speakers and children's activities
are planned across the mall grounds.

	Many participants are expected to stay in Washington the next day to lobby
their local representatives. A lobbying day breakfast and briefing will be
held at the Presbyterian Washington office from 8-9:30 a.m., 110 Maryland
Ave., NE.

	Also expected at the demonstration are mothers from the North Valley Jewish
Community Center in Granada Hills, Calif., where a gunman wounded three
small children, a teen-ager and one adult in August. A New Jersey mother
conceived the idea for the march while watching law enforcement officials on
television lead children from the center to safety.

	For more than a year, Congress has wrestled with gun control legislation
that was spurred in part by a series of school shootings. Lawmakers failed
to reach a compromise last year on a bill that would have required guns to
be sold with childproof trigger locks and mandated background checks for
people purchasing weapons at guns shows.

	"Just seven months ago, 25 moms ... announced that we were giving Congress
nine months to deliver common-sense gun laws to protect our families," Donna
Dees-Thomases, the mother who came up with the idea for the march, said at a
news conference on the National Mall earlier this month. "That didn't seem
too much to ask of them considering how much we moms can accomplish in just
nine months. We are putting Congress on notice that we have had it with
their inaction."

	For more information on the event or to add your name to the rolls of
Presbyterians planning to attend, contact Grace at the Presbyterian
Washington office: (202)543-1126 or by e-mail: To
visit the Million Mom March World Wide Web site:

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