Just over a week after two people in San Bernardino, California, walked into a government building and shot and killed 14 people, a group of Frederick County mothers are heading to Washington to pressure federal lawmakers to change the nation’s gun laws.
Carrie Larson, a mother of three from Frederick, said she’s tired of hearing excuses while there’s one mass shooting after another. She imagines her own kids at risk every time there’s another shooting, she said.
“Why are we so afraid of [stricter gun laws]?” she said. “It’s crazy that we have to sit back and do nothing and wait for the next shooting to come around.”
Susan Smith, of Frederick, has two grown children. She worries about them because of the seeming randomness of where recent mass shootings have occurred. She can’t sit by and let anyone’s children be killed by gun violence, she said.
Larson and Smith will join as many as 400 mothers from across Maryland and Virginia on Sunday as they participate in an “Orange Walk.” Together, they’ll march from Freedom Plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to the steps of the White House clad in orange — the color hunters wear for protection — demanding solutions for the nation’s growing gun violence.
The event is sponsored by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that supports gun control, and its umbrella organization, Everytown for Gun Safety. Moms Demand Action was created in the wake of the 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six staff members were killed after 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School with semi-automatic weapons. Dec. 14 marks the third anniversary of the shootings.
Mothers will participate in as many as 100 cities across the country.
The National Rifle Association said the marches are part of an effort by some to infringe on people’s Second Amendment rights. Amy Hunter, spokeswoman for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said that no new law will prevent another mass shooting from happening.
“You can’t have possibly have more gun laws than California has, and it still happened there,” she said. “You’re creating rules for the sake of rules. And those rules hurt law-abiding citizens.”
Terri Mawdsley, who organizes events in Frederick County for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the march is part of the group’s efforts to create a counterargument to the powerful “guns at all costs” message coming from the NRA. She said she’s not anti-gun; rather, she simply wants reasonable restrictions in place to prevent the worst atrocities from occurring.
As an organization, Moms Demand Action advocates closing the federal loophole that allows guns to be sold at gun shows without background checks. They also support limits on where and how guns may be carried and used in public.
Mawdsley said the group’s goal, until federal legislation is passed, is to get stricter laws passed state by state. Evidence shows that states with stricter laws have less gun violence, she said. But those individual state efforts are often hindered because they border a state with weaker gun laws, making it easy for illegal guns to be trafficked across state borders, she said.
In Maryland, for example, under the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, Marylanders cannot possess, sell, transfer, purchase or receive a handgun or an assault-style weapon unless they pass a background check, undergo four hours of safety training and are approved for a handgun qualification license. The law also bans some assault-style rifles.
But statistics from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show that Maryland recovered more than 1,000 illegally owned firearms in 2014 that were traced back to either Pennsylvania, Virginia or West Virginia, she said.
In Frederick County, Mawdsley said she’s trying to create a dialogue with residents she knows might not support her views. The group set up an informational booth in downtown Frederick for December’s First Saturday event, and she said she spoke with several people who disagreed with her. She has also contacted Frederick County Public Schools about implementing gun-safety education in the schools.
“If we just stop and talk with each other, we almost always come to some common ground,” she said.