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Mayors and Moms Unite for Historic March
"Wall of Gun Deaths" Elicits Emotional Response from Families of Victims, March Participants

By Ed Somers and Conference staff
May 29, 2000

On Motherís Day, May 14, 2000, the largest march in the nationís history for gun safety was held in Washington, DC and in cities across the nation.

With estimates running from between 500,000 and 750,000 participants, moms from across the nation sent a strong and clear message to the nationís political leaders: the time for action on gun safety legislation is now.

Million Mom March attendees take in the "Wall of Gun Deaths".

The U.S. Conference of Mayors strongly endorsed the Million Mom March, and worked over the past several months to promote participation.

The culminating press event took place on Thursday, May 11 when Conference and Million Mom March leaders came together on the National Mall before the west front of the U.S. Capitol to call for House and Senate action to stem the tide of gun violence. Gary Mayor Scott King and District of Columbia Mayor Anthony Williams presented the "Wall of Gun Deaths", a 54-foot long and 12.5-foot high memorial listing the names of 4,001 victims of gun violence, and pledged their full support for the Million Mom March.

Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases stated, "For too long we have ignored the gun violence epidemic because it was always in somebody elseís backyard. We cannot afford to ignore it any longer because our childrenís lives are far too precious. That is why this Sunday, we moms will gather here in our nationís capital and 67 other cities across the country to demand sensible gun laws."

Gary Mayor Scott King addresses the media as Conference Executive Director J. Thomas Cochran, Washington, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases look on.

Gary Mayor Scott King, whose nephew Blake, was killed by gun violence in the last year, said, "If this were any other cause of death occurring in this country, we would be outraged, and I dare say the Congress of the United States would be outraged, and I dare say it would take action."

The Wall is a graphic representation of the results of a report, titled "The Death Toll Since Columbine," which documents the day-to-day experience of 100 U.S. cities in which 4,001 persons are known to have died as a result of gun violence in the 11 months following the Columbine incident. The report lists the individual fatalities produced by this gun violence, based on the citiesí responses to a series of requests for information by the Conference. The cities included in the report were drawn from the 50 largest in the U.S., from those represented in the leadership of the Conference of Mayors, and from those submitting information for earlier Conference reports on gun violence.

"Youíre talking the magnitude of a war," declared Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams. "Unfortunately, these victims died for no great cause. They died on our own streets, in our own neighborhoods."

Among the reportís other findings:

  • Of the 100 cities, only eight had no gun violence fatalities between April 20, 1999 and March 20, 2000.

  • Of the 92 cities reporting fatalities, there are no days during the reporting period that are free of firearms deaths.

  • Of the 3,852 victims for whom ages are known, eight percent are juveniles, 17 years of age and under.

  • Young adults, 18 to 25 years of age, account for 35 percent of the total fatalities.

  • The youngest victims in the report are just two years old; the oldest victim is 97 .

The 100 cities surveyed in the report range in size from Chicago, which has a population of more than 2,720,000, to Bedford Heights, Ohio, with a population of about 11,800.

In a prepared statement, Denver Mayor and Conference President Wellington E. Webb said of the surveyís findings, "The grim results of this survey show that until action is taken, the death toll will simply grow and grow. Iím pleased with the work of moms and mayors in the year since Columbine to deglorify violence in our neighborhoods, but Iím also frustrated that Congress has not budged. I hope some of the holdouts in Congress will pause before this massive "Wall of Gun Deaths", where perhaps they will see a familiar name from their hometown, and I hope it causes them to rethink their position."

Marchers Respond to "Wall of Gun Deaths"

While the nation watched and listened to moving testimonials from mothers who have lost children due to gun violence, the human tragedy of gun violence was graphically displayed for march participants on the nationís mall.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors "Wall of Gun Deaths" was prominently displayed, drawing huge crowds including many family members and friends of persons whoís names appear on the 54 feet long, 12.5 feet high wall. Family members told stories of traveling to the march for the sole purpose of seeing the names of loved ones, many leaving behind flowers statements of remembrance.

In addition, many visitors to the Wall come to help educate their children as to the dangers of guns, and the tragedy of so many deaths.

As covered in a front page story in The Washington Post, one six-year-old child asked his dad, "Were all those people killed by guns? Did any survive? Why donít they just through guns away?" The boyís father replied, "it will only be a matter of time before you hear about someone you know who has died from a gun. Itís very important that you never play with guns."

Marches Held Across the Country

In addition to the march in Washington, DC, marches were held in more than 60 cities across the nation. While some mayors such as Toledoís Carleton Finkbeiner led delegations to Washington, DC, others actively participated in their local marches.

Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins served as master of ceremonies for a 5,000 person rally in Grant Park in Chicago. Urging participants to sign in at a registration booth, Mayor Mullins said, "We want to contact you after this event, because thatís when the real work begins."

During the Chicago march, the original, pre-Hallmark Motherís Day Proclamation was read, penned in Boston by Julia Ward Howe in1870, which was a rallying cry for women to press for peace

Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello attended a local rally with his two daughters while his wife Kate led a local contingent to Washington, DC. "Iím so proud of my wife and all the women who took the time to go to these kinds of rallies. It shows their commitment to ending gun violence in our nation," Masiello said, adding that he is fully in support of "responsible, reasonable gun laws," being called for by the organizers and participants in the Million Mom March. "I donít think itís an extreme stance; Itís a logical, right one," Masiello said.

Up to 3,000 people turned out for the Tulsa Million Mom March, with Mayor M. Susan Savage saying, "You are part of a vocal, determined majority of Tulsans advocating for change...Today, we celebrate what we believe is our right: safety in our communities from gun violence."

And Seattle Mayor Paul Schell attended a rally at which his wife, Pam, took the speakersí podium, encouraging participants to pressure their state legislators and congressional delegates for gun controls.

Marchís Mission

The mission statement of the Million Mom March says, "We, the mothers, are calling on Congress to enact common sense gun control legislation by Mothersí Day 2000." The group has endorsed:

  • Sensible "cooling off" periods and background checks for weapons purchases;

  • Licensing handgun owners and registering all handguns;

  • Safety locks for all handguns;

  • One-handgun-per-month purchasing limits;

  • "No nonsense" enforcement of gun laws.

In addition to the Conference of Mayors, over 350 national organizations, faith-based communities, and state and local groups have endorsed the march. Additional information regarding the initiative can be found by calling 888-989-MOMS or at the website: www.millionmommarch.com


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