- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 9, 2004

About 2,000 people celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday by attending a Million Mom March rally at the Capitol to demonstrate support for extending the nation’s ban on assault weapons.

The crowd gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol for speeches by figures such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who called for intervention by President Bush to continue the federal ban on military-style weapons, such as AK-47s.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a New York Democrat who entered politics after her husband was killed in the 1993 Long Island Rail Road shooting by Colin Ferguson, urged the crowd to pressure their congressmen to extend the gun ban.

“Let’s make this land safe for our police officers, our children, our moms and dads,” Mrs. McCarthy said. “Let’s go out, and get them.”

The prohibition of the sale and manufacture of assault weapons is set to expire in September. Mr. Bush has said that he would sign into law an extension of the ban, but the Republican-controlled Congress has signaled a willingness to let the ban expire.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, said Congress was wasting time on trivial matters such as changing the names of post offices, while the assault-weapon ban languishes. He told the crowd that they have the power to prod Congress to action.

“They need to be more afraid of the moms going to the ballot booth than they need to be afraid of the [National Rifle Association],” Mr. Van Hollen said.

He also called for expanding the ban to cover more rifles, such as the Bushmaster .223-caliber rifle used in 2002 Washington-area sniper attacks that left 10 persons dead.

“In Iraq, we are fighting to get AK-47s off the streets,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “What about the terror right here on our streets at home?”

After the rally, the demonstrators — many wore pink and white Million Mom March T-shirts and some held photographs of children killed by gun violence or hoisted placards emblazoned with slogans such as “Halt the Assault” and “Assault Weapons are WMD,” or weapons of mass destruction — marched down Constitution Avenue to the Washington Monument.

The event served as a kickoff for the Million Mom March organization’s national campaign to extend the gun ban. The group’s 26-foot pink recreational vehicle embarked from the rally to similar demonstrations planned for the next four months in cities nationwide, including Richmond; Raleigh, N.C.; St. Louis and Denver.

Donna Dees-Thomases, founder of Million Mom March, which first drew national attention to its anti-gun violence cause with a march in Washington on Mother’s Day 2000, said the group aims to enlist five dedicated activists in each congressional district to lobby for the assault-weapons ban.

By targeting congressional districts, she said, the group could preserve the gun ban with fewer than 2,000 workers — a fraction of the Million Mom March’s ranks.

“We have more people than the NRA,” Mrs. Dees-Thomases said. “The majority of legitimate gun owners agree that we don’t need AK-47s and Uzis on our streets.”

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