Marching Moms Call for Stricter Gun Laws

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

Washington( - On the eve of a long-awaited report on the Columbine High School shootings, tens of thousands of American moms and their families marched on the National Mall in Washington Sunday, demanding regulation of handguns and stricter enforcement of gun laws.

"I'm for sensible gun control," Amy Lemon, a Washington-area resident who took part in the march, told

"I believe three-quarters of the American population want some type of sensible gun control," said Lemon, who has never taken part in a demonstration. "Too many people who shouldn't have guns have easy access to guns. Criminals and mentally ill people - people who wouldn't pass a background check are getting them through gun shows, where there's no checking at all."

Bright sunshine and 80-degree temperatures brought out anti-gun protesters in what could prove to be one of the biggest mass demonstrations in Washington in years.

The moms demanded that Congress require waiting periods for gun purchases, background checks, licensing and registration of gun owners, gun safety locks and a limit to the number of handguns a person can purchase in a month.

While the gun lobby has long framed the gun debate as an issue of constitutional rights, gun control groups are trying to refocus the argument on child safety, as some anti-tobacco groups have done.

Lawsuits by families of students killed at the Columbine High School - in which 12 students, one teacher and two teenage gunmen died in the April 20, 1999, attack - say the local sheriff's office ignored warnings that the gunmen planned an attack and that SWAT teams took too long to enter the school after the attack began.

Monday is the deadline a judge set for investigators to hand over the report to the families suing Sheriff John Stone.

'Congress Better Heed This Warning'

At a pre-march rally outside the White House, President Clinton praised the marchers.

"In the great tradition that runs from Seneca Falls to Selma, you will have redeemed the promise of freedom, you will have strengthened the bonds of community, you will have proven that the American Constitution works," he said.

"Don't be deterred by the intimidation, don't be deterred by the screaming, don't be deterred by the political mountain you have to climb. You just remember that there are more people who think like you do in America," he said.

Polls show 75 percent of Americans favor the strict enforcement of existing gun laws. Clinton and Senate candidate Hillary Clinton weigh in behind gun-control supporters who accuse Republicans of bowing to the National Rifle Association and bottling up gun control legislation in Congress.

["With all of the marchers here today, these are voices from across the country calling for sensible gun legislation. If we speak up loud enough, the Congress will hear," Hillary Clinton told]

"If my congressman were here, I'd tell him he'd better heed this warning," Jan Hayhow, a grandmother of four who traveled with her husband from Lansing, Michigan to take part in the march, told

Hayhow's husband treated her to the trip to Washington so she could take part in the "Million Mom March" as a birthday present, she told Like many of the march attendees, she had never participated in a demonstration before.

"It would be interesting to me to see what would happen if everyone who was here made sure that none of their lawmakers took money from the NRA," she said. "The gun lobby has much too much influence in Congress. These people have money, too. I think this is the beginning of something really big."

Hayhow said the demonstration was not about hunting rifles. "It's about handguns that kill people," she said.

Other protesters agreed: "I'm not against responsible gun ownership, but when a first grader can shoot another first grader, that's wrong. When teenagers can get access to guns and shoot other teenagers, that's wrong. When mentally ill people get guns and try to shoot presidents, that's wrong, and it needs to be stopped," Lemon said.