Million Mom March

By Jerilyn WatsonAmericans will celebrate Mother's Day next Sunday. This year, tens of thousands of mothers will observe the day in an unusual way. They will gather in Washington, D. C. , to demonstrate for stronger national gun control laws. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Sarah Long. The Million Mom March is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

Last August, a mother in Short Hills, New Jersey was watching the news on television. She saw young children being led away from a Jewish community center in Granada Hills, California. Police were taking the children to safety after a gunman entered the center and shot and wounded four children and an adult.

The pictures on the television frightened Donna Dees-Thomases. A few days later she decided to start a movement to strengthen gun control and gun law enforcement in America. She asked the National Park Service for permission to hold a demonstration in the nation's capital. Some friends in Washington, DC advised her that such a protest would probably not influence Congress to pass more gun laws. But Donna Dees-Thomases was very angry about gun violence. She continued with her plan.So on Sunday, an estimated one-hundred-fifty-thousand women from across the nation will demonstrate on the National Mall in Washington for gun control. The demonstration is called the Million Mom March. It is named after a march five years ago for black men called the Million Man March.

Similar gun-control demonstrations will be held in about twenty other cities across the country. The organizers of the event say twelve children are shot and killed every day in the United States. They want this to stop.

The demonstrators want Congress to pass new laws to control guns. They want a required waiting period before a person can buy a handgun. During this time, officials would investigate to make sure the buyer is not a criminal. People would need legal permission to own handguns. Local officials would keep records of all guns. And people would be permitted to buy only one handgun each month.The activist mothers want gun-makers to be required to put safety devices on all handguns to prevent accidental shootings. The women also are calling on law officers to enforce existing gun laws. And, they are asking businesses to help spread the message that gun violence is unacceptable.

The women say they are not trying to make owning a gun illegal. The group generally does not criticize use of guns by law-enforcement agents, hunters and others who use guns safely.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Donna Dees-Thomases began her campaign to organize a demonstration by calling women in her area. These mothers made hundreds of telephone calls to others. The new group also made hundreds of telephone calls. The mothers invited anyone to take part who is a mother, a grandmother, or a temporary legal caretaker. Soon thousands of people said they would join the demonstration. Companies and organizations began giving money to help in the effort.At least three-hundred organizations are supporting the Million Mom March. They include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Parent-Teacher Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of doctors who treat children. Other supporters are the United States Conference of Mayors and many religious groups.

President Clinton's wife Hillary Rodham Clinton says she will attend the demonstration. Television performer Rosie O'Donnell will lead the program. Women whose children were killed by guns will tell their stories. There also will be a wall of remembrance for victims of gun violence.Nancy Parris-Moskowitz will take part in the Million Mom March. She is the president of the Jewish community center in California that Donna Dees-Thomases saw on television. The center has raised more than ten-thousand dollars for the event. It earned some of the money by selling T-shirts that say "Million Mom March."

Carole Price of Baltimore, Maryland is helping to organize the demonstration. She is a mother who has felt the effects of gun violence. Her thirteen-year-old son, John, died of a gunshot wound two years ago. He was shot accidentally by a nine-year-old boy who was playing with a gun he found in his home. Just before he shot John, the child said the gun was not loaded. This was one of many accidental shootings in the United States each year.But many gun incidents in the United States are not accidents. Last year, several students were shot and killed in their schools. Two weeks ago, a sixteen-year-old boy shot into a crowd of young people outside the National Zoo in Washington. An eleven-year-old boy was shot in the head. Six other children also were injured.

President Clinton reacted to the shooting with an announcement. He said the federal government and the District of Columbia are joining in an effort to remove seven-thousand guns from the city. They will share the cost of a program to buy guns from gun owners.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Earlier this year, President Clinton proposed several measures to reduce the number of shooting incidents. He proposed that hand-gun buyers be required to have official state documents. They could get these state licenses only after officials made sure they were not criminals. And gun-buyers would have to complete gun-safety training.

The president also has proposed that Congress provide money to increase the number of government agents and lawyers to work against gun crimes. However, a major gun-control bill proposed by Mr. Clinton failed in the House of Representatives last June. It would have required investigation of people buying guns at temporary gun shows.One main reason for the failure of stronger gun-control measures in the United States is opposition by the National Rifle Association. This powerful organization has millions of members. It has strong financial support. A number of elected officials support its policies.

The N-R-A has campaigned for many years to protect a citizen's right to freely own firearms. It says the second amendment to the Constitution describes the right to keep and carry arms. The amendment says a citizens' army with weapons is needed for the security of a free state. Many Americans believe this means people have a right to keep guns.A group called Second Amendment Sisters shares this belief. These women also will demonstrate in Washington on Mother's Day. Their anti-gun-control event is called the Armed Informed Mothers' March. It will be held in the same area as the Million Mom March. Speakers will include women who have used guns to defend themselves from attackers. The Second Amendment Sisters expect thousands of supporters to attend.

These women say more laws will not save lives. They say good people obey laws, but criminals do not. The Second Amendment Sisters believe guns save about two-million lives every year. They say most people who defend themselves with guns against criminal attacks do not fire the weapons. They say showing the weapon or firing a warning shot often scares away an attacker.The Second Amendment Sisters note a Department of Justice study about crimes against women. The study shows that about fifty-two percent of women have been the victims of an attacker. Second Amendment Sisters believe women who own a gun and know how to use it correctly are improving their security.

Americans will continue to debate the issue of gun control in the future. On Sunday, tens of thousands of women will express their feelings about the issue as a way to observe Mother's Day in America.

This program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Sarah Long.And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.