April 4, 2013 in Salem, Oregon. Anniversary of MLK assassination 45 years ago.
April 4, 1968 Oberlin, Ohio. Due date for first child, we were devastated. Uncomforable with response by small college town to angry black community.*
Everything about being part of the day at the Salem Rally was inspirational. Heard moving remarks by family members of those killed by guns at Clackamas Town Center and other places. Bravely they have joined the fight for gun control.
Six of us women of age made the trip to visit with our legislators who all are working hard to move bills through the Oregon State legislature. In the morning we were in the offices of Represenative Jennifer Williamson first. Then on to Senator Ginny Burdick, a woman of great personal courage who speaks in a matter-of-fact way about the death threats she has received for her longstanding support of improved public safety through gun control laws. Ginny wears the two stickers her office handed out about those bills--background checks and K-12 safety in schools.
Not a surprise that we were almost almost entirely women. I heard someone say recently that we'd know progress had been made toward our goal when a large number of men turned out for these events. Those I heard were gun owners eager to make a case for their representing the "sensible" gun owners.
When they form a new organization, separate from the NRA, it will be easier for me to hear them. Even though the majority of the state's population is in Portland and its metro area, laws or lack of them, favor those in rural areas. Only the mayors of Eugene, where the University of Oregon is located, and Portland are participants in Bloomberg's "Mayors Demand an End to Illegal Guns" coalition. And here I was in Salem, the state capitol, third largest city in the state (pop. 154,637), and a mayor who has not signed on.
Since moving here, I've been amazed that government buildings have little concern about security. Back in New York City I was always ready to hold open my purse for checking not only at City Hall but museums too. Attending court hearings in 2006 for Grandmothers Against the War, I even had to give up my knitting needles. Here, one simply walks right in with a smile.
The State House was built in 1936, the third one after fire destroyed two. I liked the feeling of being part of the democratic process as I walked its halls. The Impressive rotunda, the carpeting with images of chinook salmon and wheat representing fishing and agriculture central to Oregon's economy and identity. Sorry I was moving too fast to get a photo of the carpet to show grandkids.
At noon we gathered for the Rally. There were 150 of us, an accurate count by the media, and 50 of the very loud, anti-control NRA guys. Of course some of them carried weapons so we would not miss seeing what they feared losing if stricter gun controls were enacted.
Under a tent the coalition that had organized the Rally erected a Memorial Wall. Children's shoes were lined up across the bottom. Any of us could post photos, thoughts. My two contributions were a cartoon--teacher thanks a student, "Why Bobby how thoughtful. A holster for my glock!" And a "Sensible Firearms Resolution" a neighbor of mine had written.
The Oregon Alliance for Gun Control is three groups--two that have been around for a while, Oregon Ceasefire and the Brady Campaign. The third is new: Moms Demand A Plan. I hope this coalition approach continues; we have so much more strength, can pool our resources more effectively. And we are all working toward the same goal.
No surprise that it was raining off and on. Though most longtime Oregonians are loath to use umbrellas, many popped up in the crowd. Toward the end of the Rally, I found myself standing behind our friends Carl and Olivia. They were in Clackamas Town Center when the shooting began and Carl (at left in photo) spoke of the need to keep close to young adolescent boys and they struggle with their values.
Olivia brought one of her beautiful paintings inspired by her pain when she learned of the massacre at Newtown. My neighbor, who gave me a ride and helps me understand this Northwest Territory, took our picture.
On Facebook, I've both connected with the local group and learned what women are doing nationally through Moms Demand Action. Representing the Moms in Portland, Jenny, here with Sen. Burdick, collected speakers (legislators and community people) who kept our attention. For a change there was no foolishness from the antis.
Though it was exhausting for me and my senior lady friends, we're ready to go forward in this difficult struggle.
*Now, 45 years later, my grown child has young children who need protection from gun violence.