Million Mom March To Turn Political

Friday, May 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — While Sunday's ``Million Mom March'' for gun control will focus on victims rather than politicians, the rally leader said mothers around the country will transform their grassroots movement afterwards into an organization that will endorse and oppose candidates.

Donna Dees-Thomases, a public relations executive from Short Hills, N.J., said Friday that starting next week, she and other mothers ``will take off our oven mitts and look at candidates very closely. Shame on us if we do not keep it going.''

Dees-Thomases told a news conference that she expects the ``Million Mom March'' organization would likely apply for a tax-exempt status that would permit political activities while promoting social welfare. It is unlikely that the organization would start a political action committee because it would duplicate gun control PACS already in existence, she said.

Explaining the difference between her movement and existing gun control organizations, Dees-Thomases said, ``There has been no grassroots movement. It's all been done within the Beltway,'' the highway that encircles the capital and has come to symbolize the divide between Washington and the rest of the country.

The march founder said the Internet gives ``mothers who are sick and tired of gun violence in this country'' a ``cheap, effective way of communicating'' to compete with the powerful National Rifle Association.

Sunday's rally on the National Mall, however, will discourage partisan politics by keeping political figures off the formal program even though, Dees-Thomases said, ``they all want to go on stage.'' Numerous entertainers will speak and perform and political figures including first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will march, but the major focus will be victims of gun violence telling their personal stories. Dees-Thomases said 150,000 are expected for the Washington rally, while similar demonstrations will take place in about 70 other cities.

A counter rally will be conducted by Second Amendment Sisters Inc., which is independent of the NRA and describes itself as a Dallas-based, ``grassroot, self-defense and safety-education advocacy group.''

``We all own firearms or know someone who does. I used one to save my life from an attacker,'' said Debra Collins, Colorado state coordinator for the group. ``The anti-gun factions constantly say if it saves one life it's worth it. Well my firearm saved one life — mine — and I promise you my mother thinks it was worth it.''

The ``Million Mom March'' supports numerous gun control measures, but is concentrating on a proposal to license owners of handguns and register the sidearms. Dees-Thomases said her group is not opposed to gun ownership, but believes that handgun purchasers should be willing to comply with the movement's proposals for a safety course, a background check, a photo, a thumbprint, a license renewal system and registration of the gun's serial number.

Second Amendment Sisters co-founder Kimberly Watson said it makes ``no sense at all to enact laws which can only be used to convict previously law-abiding citizens while criminals get a free pass. It is time to start enforcing the existing violent crime laws, rather than wasting taxpayer money on harassment and punishment of nonviolent firearms owners. It is time for the media and the politicians to help people who want to defend themselves against crime, rather than passing laws which only help the criminals.''


On the Net:

National Rifle Association:

Second Amendment Sisters: