Do you remember the days immediately after Sandy Hook; how it was almost like thinking in repeating loops through layers of cotton batting? For almost everyone I know, it went something like this: How can this have happened? Those poor innocent babies! Why would someone do this? Those poor families! How can this have happened?
Sitting around a kitchen table over cups of coffee, a group of friends in Fairfield, Connecticut were trapped in that same circular thought maze, only for them, the sorrow and the horror must have been multiplied a hundred-fold by their proximity to the epicenter of the massacre. They had to know they had brushed up against evil. Every mother in the area had to be feeling relief that the angel of death had passed her family by, and at the same time, suffering a gut souring survivor’s guilt that their lives remained blessedly intact. But mostly, I suspect, their minds and hearts were filled with a determination that such an unspeakable fate would not befall their children, not anyone’s children, ever again.
It was from that somber coffee klatch of Connecticut mothers that a grass roots organization sprang. Scratch that. Not “grass roots.” Grass spreads out from a single point and swallows everything as it grows. The groups organizing against gun violence are more like wildflowers, stubbornly taking root in whatever opening they can find, hoping that soon there will be enough of them to change the landscape of the dark society that Wayne LaPierre has painted as our future, with armed guards pacing outside kindergarten classrooms and every school principal hiding a Bushmaster under her desk.
The women called themselves March For Change, and Nancy Lefkowitz and Meg Staunton are the seeds from which this “wildflower” group germinated. The two motivated professional women and their friends did more than sit over coffee and repeat to one another the words we all were saying: “Something has to be done.” Nancy and Meg did something. They used their creative skills to plant wildflower seeds, hoping gun sensible safety laws would grow.
The day after their kitchen caucus, while most of us were still trying to find our way out of that peculiar state of numbed inertia Sandy Hook engendered, March For Change partnered with another “wildflower” group, Connecticut Against Gun Violence, (CAGV), a non-profit organization that has been working since the early 90s to promote gun safely legislation in the state of Connecticut. CAGV has recently suggested new state gun legislation that is the toughest proposal I have seen to date. It would ban assault weapons from the state, with no “grandfather” clause to exempt current owners. CAGV also recommend a tax on ammunition; the kind of tax I recently argued should be substantial, to allow market forces to curb stockpiling, and should be used to pay for the rehabilitation needs of children hurt by gunfire.
Days after forming their “wildflower” group, March for Change, Meg and Nancy held a meeting of interested citizens at a local church, with their Congressman, Democrat Jim Himes in attendance. They drew over 250 of their neighbors, most of them parents. Democrats and Republicans came; what party someone belonged to was a non-issue. Everyone who gathered had the same goal; the same common purpose; no more Sandy Hooks.
Though there had been hardly any time to prepare, Meg and Nancy were ready with an initial action plan. Just days after Sandy Hook, with the wound still raw, and the shock still profound, they proposed a non-partisan petition advocating for “common sense” gun safety laws. They organized a campaign to call the White House asking President Obama to act on gun legislation. And then there was the piece de resistance, the event for which they had named their group; they asked the citizens of Connecticut to march in Hartford, the state’s capitol, for common sense gun restrictions on February 14.
Because of Meg and Nancy, this Thursday, Valentines Day, thousands of concerned citizens will don green clothes and board yellow school busses to travel to Hartford, pioneers in search of laws that will begin to change America’s “shoot first, think later” gun culture. CT Moms Online, which is supporting the march, used the term “plead for laws.” I found those words haunted me. When did it happen that we were reduced by the NRA to pleading with our government for the lives of our babies?
The visceral message of the busses is inspired; we failed the children of Sandy Hook, but we will not fail again. If you are in Connecticut and want to add your voice, the event is planned from 11:00 a.m. until noon. You can find information on the March For Change website, or Facebook page. If you can’t go and want to show your support, you can sponsor a seat on a school bus, or treat yourself to some March for Change merchandise, which not only helps the group, it helps spread those wildflower seeds.
If the story of Meg and Nancy ended Thursday with a successful protest, I would still find their efforts deserving of praise. But the petition, and the phone campaign, and the march on Hartford appear to be the beginning of the March For Change campaign to transform our gun culture, not the end. It seems there are more wildflowers being planted by Nancy and Meg.
According to LinkedIn, Nancy worked for the Tribeca Film Festival, and Meg is a founding partner of Carrmaquest Productions, which produces family friendly entertainment. Knowing people tend to gravitate to what they do well, I went looking for any video projects Nancy and Meg might have initiated. Sure enough, in support of the march on Thursday, March for Change has introduced their first three educational spots, in what CAGV has called, a “robust public service campaign.” In the video below, school-aged kids from the Newtown area give their thoughts on the massacre. You can watch all 3 videos from Raw Digital TV, on their Facebook Page.
Two average, middle class mothers were so moved by the horror of Sandy Hook, they have dedicated themselves to doing whatever they can to make sure such violence will never visit their community again. We thank Nancy Lefkowitz and Meg Stanton for their efforts and join them in their desire to make a “more perfect union.”
If you are a proponent of a change in our wild west gun culture, take heart. Cable news makes it seem like the only “gun” story worth telling is which politician might reach escape velocity and break free from their orbit around the NRA. But out in the countryside, wildflowers are blooming everywhere.
- Just this week, Democratic politico Julian Epstein reported Republican House Leadership has informed the NRA they have no choice but to back universal background checks.
- Congressional Democrats are planning to use the State of the Union address to make a statement on the need for gun legislation. Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, is encouraging members of the Democratic Caucus to use their +1 to invite someone from their state who has been a victim of gun violence. As I write this, at least four congressmen have taken up the suggestion, hopefully by Tuesday night’s address, there will be more.
- You may have been part of the rather lively discussion we had at the New Civil Rights Movement after I proposed making gun liability insurance mandatory for every gun. My Facebook friend Wesley Slingerland, sent me an article from the Huffington Post this week, that reports 4 states now have firearms insurance legislation pending. I am not claiming any credit for those bills, only pointing out good ideas are emerging all over the country. In every crack and crevice in the concrete, wildflowers are taking root.
Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Columnist for The New Civil Rights Movement. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle.