Women are under the gun again

May 16, 2000|By Susan Reimer

IF CHILDREN are going to be safe from handguns, it looks like it will be up to their mothers to make it so.

Great. Another item on our list of things to do. Another chore. Another responsibility. One more damn thing we have to do before we can turn in for the night.

And one more thing we can't count on the husbands and fathers to do. Like the laundry or the grocery shopping or remembering to make well-baby check-ups.

We elected them to Congress and the state legislatures, and we tried to relax our controlling natures and delegate to them the responsibility of gun safety. We tried to let go and let the husbands and fathers "own" the task. No interference and second-guessing from us, for a change.

But it didn't work. (It rarely does.) Kids are dying every day from handgun accidents and handgun violence. It looks like protecting these children won't get done unless we do it.

So thousands of women and mothers gave up their one day off this year to march on Washington and raise their voices in a loud chorus of, "Hell-o? These are your kids, too, remember?"

That's my gut reaction to the Million Mom March. Nursing mothers, working mothers, single mothers, women with strollers -- nearly a million women with a million other things to do had to go to incredible lengths Sunday to initiate another spectacularly sensible social movement: like DARE or MADD or the anti-smoking campaigns.

We have had to shame the nation into agreeing with us that drug use, cigarette smoking and driving drunk are unhealthy activities with deadly consequences for unborn babies, children and teens. Now we have to convince them that children should not be able to play with loaded guns and that teens and young adults should not have such easy access to them.

It is amazing the stuff you have to spell out for people.

Has it only occurred to mothers that you can't scatter guns all over the landscape of this country and then expect young people not to use them to get their way when they are in an immature temper, and that the strict control of their sale is one answer?

Are mothers the only ones who have figured out that leaving a loaded gun in a night stand is an invitation to disaster and that mandatory gun locks are one answer?

(Apparently not. Gov. George W. Bush, in the ultimate Eddie Haskell move, announced that if he is elected president he will pass out free gun locks. You'd think he'd be ashamed of being that obvious.)

But my fury and my frustration at the necessity for the Million Mom March was not the reason I was not on the Washington Mall Sunday. I was in a gymnasium in Northern Virginia watching my daughter play basketball while my husband remained at home to take our son to baseball practice.

That is the other way to protect our children from gun violence: Find a wholesome activity that engages their hearts, their bodies and their time, and spend your time watching them do what they love.

Grass-roots politicking, mass demonstrations, the vote and the stigmatizing of a previously acceptable activity are just some of the tools mothers have in the war against gun violence.

Engagement and supervision are the others. And husbands and fathers can do that, too.

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