What a million mothers can do

March: Washington march on gun control seeks to turn the tide toward results.

May 13, 2000

IDENTIFYING a problem can be less onerous than fixing it. Take gun control, for instance.

Tens of thousands of mothers are expected to march tomorrow in Washington to support two sides of this seemingly intractable issue. Ask the gun-rights advocates or gun-control activists and they'll both say, "Safe children? It's our No. 1 goal."

That's where the agreement stops, sadly. And where divisive politics starts, whipping people up over how best to solve the problem.

Meanwhile comes the destruction of young lives in large numbers. Before the day ends, 12 children will be killed by a gun, be it because of accident, suicide or crime. Twelve died yesterday, and twelve more will die tomorrow and the next day, until the grownups stop the insane game of politicking.

About 150,000 people are expected join the Million Mom March on the National Mall. Their goals are reasonable: background checks, handgun registration, safety locks, one-handgun-a-month purchase limits, and tough enforcement of gun laws.

But how different are their aims from those of the Armed Informed Mothers March, a counterdemonstration that will take place on the other side of the Washington Monument? If both truly want children to be safe, shouldn't they be marching together?

Making matters more political and less sensible, the NRA started an ad campaign this week promoting its Safe Kids Fund. The group is putting up $1 million to put gun-safety programs in every school. The NRA already teaches gun safety and should continue its good work. But having the NRA lead a gun-safety crusade is a little like an oil refinery teaching environmental safety

What's really at stake here is not the Second Amendment or the Framers' toes, as the NRA would have us believe. At stake are children, communities and our culture. Do we seek a society where anyone can be a crime fighter simply because he's carrying a handgun?

For most people -- and certainly for most moms -- the answer is probably no. To them, reasonable controls on guns are a worthy goal. But they are depending on lawmakers to be the agents of change. Unfortunately, too many of them have become agents of a powerful lobby's rich campaign support.

If the Million Mom March can turn the tide in this flood of divisive politics over guns, more power to organizer Donna Dees-Thomases and her brigade. What about the rest of us? The clock is ticking, measuring in twelves.

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