WASHINGTON – Touting a report showing 44 school shootings nationally in the past 14 months, Maryland moms joined others on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning urging lawmakers to take action on gun control.
The event, sponsored by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, featured an analysis of school shootings since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
The report documented 28 deaths and 37 non-fatal injuries in school shootings since Sandy Hook.
It also said that in the first six weeks of 2014 alone there were 13 school shootings, including one eight-day period in which there were four shootings in K-12 schools.
The groups want to tighten background check loopholes and give law enforcement more tools to combat gun trafficking.
Jenifer Pauliukonis, chapter leader for Maryland’s Moms Demand Action, who brought cupcakes and Valentine’s cards for lawmakers, said Wednesday’s event was inspiring and she is optimistic that Congress will pass gun control laws.
“Change is going to come, maybe not with this Congress. We might need some people to get voted out, but the change will come and lives are going to be saved,” Pauliukonis said.
Despite the optimism of gun control advocates, the fact remains that Congress has failed to pass any gun control legislation since Sandy Hook.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Congress’ inaction is unacceptable and Americans should be outraged.
“The response from Congress is at best indifference and I would argue at times complicit,” Murphy said.
He said the Senate is debating a bill to allow individuals to bring guns into post offices.
“In the face of record numbers of shootings on public property the response of the United States Senate might actually be to increase the ability for individuals to bring guns on to public property,” Murphy said.
Where Congress has stalled, Maryland has succeeded. Maryland passed a new gun control law that became effective on Oct. 1. The law, considered one of the toughest in the nation, requires handgun purchasers to get fingerprinted and take gun safety courses.
Michael Faith, marketing director at Hendershot’s Sporting Goods in Hagerstown, said his company took a big hit on its handgun sales after Maryland’s law passed.
“In September we had our best month ever in handgun sales. In October we had a 99 percent reduction in handgun sales. We still have not recovered those sales,” Faith said.
Faith thinks there are controls already in place that are working at the state level. He also said that most pro-gun people would agree with background checks and most don’t mind having a seven-day waiting period.
“If you want to do something meaningful right now you have to address the mental health aspect,” Faith said.
Moms Demand Action launched 14 months ago, following the school shooting in Newtown that resulted in the death of 20 children and six adults. The group claims 150,000 members nationwide, about 700 of them in Maryland.
In December, the group joined with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun-control group founded and financed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Laurel Mayor Craig Moe were among the handful of Maryland mayors who signed on to the group.
“The citizens of Baltimore know all too well the tragedy and grief caused by gun violence. We must stay committed in our mission to end gun violence in order to make every city and town in America safer,” Rawlings-Blake said in an email.
In 2008, while pregnant with her son, Jennifer Stapleton of Cheverly was carjacked.
“That experience showed me that it is way too easy for violent people to get hold of a gun,” Stapleton said.
Stapleton too is convinced that change will come and lawmakers will have no choice but to pass gun reform laws.
“There are millions of moms across the country. We will continue to put pressure on legislators,” Stapleton said. “We are committed to keeping our kids safe. We know this is a long-term fight and we know we are up to it.”