- The Washington Times - Monday, March 20, 2000

As Debra Collins tells it, she became a Second Amendment Sister the night a gun saved her from a beating by her abusive ex-husband.
In 1985, Mrs. Collins was staying at her mother's house when her ex-husband broke in at 4 a.m. and threatened to kill her. Grabbing a shotgun, she held him at bay until the police arrived.
"I had been beaten waiting for the police before," she recalled. "I've learned that a gun is the only thing that will level the playing field for a woman who's being attacked."
That's why Mrs. Collins, 36, is taking on the Million Mom March, a national anti-gun rally planned for Mother's Day. She recently signed on as Colorado state coordinator of the Second Amendment Sisters, a newly formed grass-roots women's group promoting the idea that guns are "a woman's friend," she said.
The Dallas-based group is organizing the Armed Informed Mothers March, a counterprotest scheduled for May 14, the same day as the Million Mom March. Both events are being held in Washington and other major cities.
"We just have to make sure that people don't think the million moms speak for all women," said Mrs. Collins.
Whether the Sisters will be heard over the Moms is another question. Members of the Million Mom March's steering committee include some of the nation's most powerful gun-control organizations, including the Bell Campaign, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Handgun Control Inc.
The Million Mom March is the brainchild of Donna Dees-Thomases, a New Jersey mother of two and publicist for talk-show host David Letterman, who says she applied for a permit to march on the Mall in reaction to the shooting at the Granada Hills, Calif., day-camp in August. Organizers are appealing to mothers and fathers troubled by the recent rash of school shootings, including the April 20 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., where 13 persons were slain by two teen-age gunmen.
The march's agenda is the passage of "common-sense gun laws," including requiring licensing and registration for all firearms, mandatory safety locks for handguns, a limit of one handgun purchase per month, as well as "no-nonsense" enforcement of existing gun laws.
"We want Congress to create a meaningful gun policy in this country that treats guns like cars," said Mrs. Dees-Thomases. "We are asking Congress to enact sensible laws or face a 'time-out' in November."
The march has lined up sponsors ranging from big corporations like StrideRite, Northwest Airlines, Guess and Oxygen.com, to small businesses like Little Eric's Shoe Store in Millburn, N.J. Its site on the Internet, www.millionmommarch.com, gives cheeky "Apple Pie Awards" to political allies like President Clinton, as well as stints in the "Time Out Chair" for political opponents, such as House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.
"[S]adly, getting some lawmakers to act reasonably is about as difficult as getting our kids to clean their rooms," according to a Million Mom press release. "If we've told them once, we've told them a hundred times. But still the majority of Congress doesn't pass laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands even in the wake of Columbine."
A spokeswoman for Million Moms said she was aware of the Second Amendment Sisters, but the group had no comment on the countermarch by press time.
A grass-roots, Dallas-based group founded in January, the Second Amendment Sisters lacks the Moms' clout, but organizers are confident that "with U.S. gun owners numbering near 80 million, we should be able to beat back the Million Mom attack," according to their literature. Three months into their campaign, organizers already have branches in 13 states, including Arkansas, California, New York and Virginia.
Kimberly Watson, one of the group's founders, said the Second Amendment Sisters was begun "to let Congress know that we won't stand for having our right to defend our families ripped away."
The organization emphasizes self-defense, safety education and responsible parenting as the solutions for violence against children. Like the National Rifle Association and other pro-firearms groups, the Sisters stress the importance of enforcing current laws instead of passing more.
"Any further erosion of the Second Amendment serves only to harm women and their families," said Mrs. Watson. "Violent criminals don't care how many new laws are made for the children in fact, a crush of new laws will make it that much easier for criminals to take advantage of children and their mothers."
The sisters' Internet site, www.SAS-AIM.org, warns, "Hey, Annie… . They're comin' to git yer gun!" Its statistics sheet reports that in 1998, one of every 33 women was a victim of a violent crime. According to the National Research Opinion Center, 44 percent of adult women either own or have access to firearms.
Mrs. Collins has personal reasons for opposing the Million Moms' agenda. She got the shotgun she used to fend off her ex-husband from her 20-year-old boyfriend, who wouldn't have been able to buy a gun under proposals to raise the legal age to 21. And she didn't have to fumble with a trigger lock before she aimed the gun at her ex-husband.
"The root of the problem is really with our morals and family life. Guns have been around forever, but these mass shootings are a recent phenomenon," said Mrs. Collins. "It has to do with societal values. You can't legislate morality, and that's what the million moms are trying to do."

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