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Not a Million, But a March To Remember

By Meredith B. Osborn

The Million theme has gripped America. Starting with the Million Man march organized by the Nation of Islam with Louis Farakhan at its head in 1995 (he later led a Million Family march in September of 1999) and ending with the highly successful Million Mom March on the Washington Mall this weekend, a million has been the magic number. Even Detroit is held in thrall by a million--the number of people it wants counted by the census in the city. Does it bother anyone that a million is an elusive number?

The first Million march set an example for missing the mark--attracting only hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Later million marches haven't been even as successful; both the Million Woman March held in 1997 and two separate Million Youth Marches held in 1998 didn't even come close to getting a million marchers.

While following in the footsteps of these former millions, the Million Mom March has managed to avoid much of their malaise. In fact, the moms might be the first marchers who can legitimately claim a million marchers; approximately 750,000 on the Washington Mall last Sunday, and hundreds of thousands more participating in similar marches all around the country.

And the Million mothers may not be disappointed by lackadaisical legislators. The moms have specific goals--child-proofing hand-guns, more comprehensive background checks at gun shows, and strictly enforcing existing gun laws. These are measures long advocated by the gun-control lobby, but with the force of mothers behind them, Congress may finally find the strength to free itself from the moneyed-grasp of the NRA.

So, with specific goals, a million marchers and motherhood behind them, the mothers are in a significantly stronger position than the Promise Keepers "dads" of 1996. They too had hundreds of thousands of marchers, but they made the critical error of getting "sad" instead of "mad." The dads wept openly, hugged each other in stadiums, and then tried to assert their patriarchal authority. Not too effective. The moms have effectively channeled their anger towards achieving specific goals. They are bonded by a single purpose, not an nebulous concept.

The moms have another advantage--they represent a significant portion of the nationwide population, the portion that believes that stronger gun legislation is necessary. In a Washington Post-ABC News national survey released earlier this week two-thirds of respondents said gun laws should be strengthened. One in four said that they had been threatened by a gun.

The NRA, of course, claimed that the two-thirds were unduly influenced by the "sensationalism" of the media coverage of events like the Kayna Rolland shooting. The moms know better than to buy that lie. The shootings have been sensational, simply by the fact that they continue to occur and recur, again and again. The marchers noted that 12 children are killed by guns everyday, the same guns that 45 percent of Americans keep in their homes.

The moms--even when they have guns themselves--know that requiring manufacturers to put gun locks on those guns and keep them out of the hands of convicted felons is not the drastic curtailing of second amendment rights that the Second Amendment Sisters (a small group of women who launched a minor counter protest on Sunday) and the NRA would like us to believe. The lives "saved" by guns every year--like the 1,500 murders John R. Lott estimates were prevented by states that allow concealed weapons to be carried in 1992--don't measure up to the 32,000 deaths each year resultant of gun violence.

The moms are and will be a powerful force to promote stronger gun control, both strategically and emotionally. Lawmakers are likely and rightly influenced by their pathos and their logic. If they are not, the moms should try the other tried-and-true method of gaining political change. When marching doesn't get results, even when there's a million, civil disobedience is the next step. The moms should remember mothers of the past--moms like Rosa Parks and the suffragettes--who were willing to do much more than march for their cause.

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