Gun control marchers gather in D.C. ‘to bring sanity back’ -- Gazette.Net


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Bundled against the bitter cold, Anne Noel held up a sign with 26 names.

Dec. 14, her daughter’s seventh birthday, was the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which brought the Silver Spring mom to tears as she spoke of it.

“I just can’t bear that all these kids died,” she said.

Noel was one of about 6,000 people from around the country who gathered Saturday for the March on Washington for Gun Control, which included Montgomery County residents among both the marchers and the organizers.

Noel, who has been interested in gun control since the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, said she has written letters to Maryland senators and representatives and felt strongly enough about the issue to brave the chill.

“I wish that there were more people here, and I know that it’s cold, but it seems so important that we need to make a lot of noise, so that Congress will listen,” Noel said.

A member of the event’s steering committee, D.W. Gregory, of Glenmont, said the recent shooting in Newtown moved her to take action, a reaction she thinks was shared around the country.

Marches like the one Saturday in D.C. and around the country are necessary for “hammering the message home” to legislators who are also hearing from National Rifle Association lobbyists, Gregory said.

Montgomery County residents took their place among the marchers who also included residents of Newtown, Conn. The event was founded by two Washington-area individuals. The co-sponsors included One Million Moms for Gun Control.

Marchers held signs reading “Down with the NRA and insane gun carnage” and “The Right to Live Precedes the Right to Guns” as they walked the route starting at the Capitol Reflecting Pool and following Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues.

Recalling friends he lost to gun violence as a child in Chicago, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said gun control is a personal issue for him, one that requires the contributions of many to create a climate where children feel safe.

“This is about gun responsibility. This is about gun safety,” Duncan said. “This is about fewer dead Americans, fewer dead children, fewer children living in fear.”

Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shootings who was shot four times, said changes in gun control are “badly needed.”

“I’m not here today because of what happened to me,” Goddard said. “I’m here today because I kept seeing what happened to me happen to so many other people, and nothing being done about it.”

Looking at the crowd, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat, said he saw a group “gathered to say to the United States Congress that the price of inaction is too high, that the death toll across America is unacceptable.”

“We’ve had enough tragedies, enough senseless violence and enough ... pretending that there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

Molly Smith, one of the march’s co-founders, urged participants to continue their work for gun control after the event, echoing a sentiment many speakers expressed.

“This is just part of the process, this march,” Smith said. “Each one of us is going to have to do something every day in terms of gun control.”

Smith said the march was organized in about a month by people she described as “a whole group of bipartisan citizen activists.”

“This is an act of citizenship. We’re joined together to focus on common-sense legislation around gun control,” Smith said.

Such legislative goals were outlined in the event’s mission, including the reinstatement of the assault-weapon ban, a ban for high-capacity ammunition magazines and universal background checks, according to the event website.

Simone Lavine, of Rockville, who said she supports President Obama’s recent gun-control initiative, held one of the signs handed out at the event that bore the name of a gun-violence victim.

“I’m here because I think that guns are a horrible, terrible, evil thing,” she said.

“This is an issue that I’ve always felt strongly about and I’m just glad that more people are paying attention it now,” she added.

Janet Cromer, of Bethesda, attended the march with about a dozen fellow members of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda. She said she supported “common-sense changes” to gun-control laws, including a ban on large ammunition clips and a federal registry of gun owners.

Cromer, a nurse for 40 years, said she has seen the effects of gun violence in the hospital and the mental-health system.

It is important, she said, “to talk back to the NRA (National Rifle Association) with their enormous, immense power and funding and to start a groundswell of activity to stand back and show that people really do care about the millions of people killed by guns every year.”

lpowers@gazette.net