More than 300 people congregated Thursday evening at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, filling the sanctuary to its fire code capacity. They weren’t there to worship. They were there to join the gun-control movement.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense formed in the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 students and six adults dead. The organization lobbies for stricter and universal background checks on gun purchases and gun control measures.
Sara Stephen, who has two young sons, ages 3 and 1, said she was motivated to attend the meeting following the Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 people were killed.
Stephen said for the last week she has been weighing whether to home school her children to keep them safe from gun violence or move to Canada, which has stricter gun laws.
“It’s so intimidating thinking of sending my kids to school,” she said.
Stephen was among the hundreds who came to the Moms Demand Action meeting for the first time.
The local group in Madison typically sees 20 to 30 people at monthly meetings, leader Jennifer Rosen-Heinz said. The original location for this month’s meeting was Pinney Library, but after interest on the group’s event page on Facebook more than tripled the library’s capacity, Rosen-Heinz said the church welcomed the group to have its meeting there.
Rosen-Heinz said she doesn’t believe the recent surge of support for gun control will fade.
“Something about this is different,” she said. “The fact that this many people came out tonight, on a night where the weather is kind of iffy ... that to me is significant.”
Chris Krasovich, leader of the Wisconsin chapter of Moms Demand Action, said MDA will pursue a campaign to either get lawmakers on their side of the gun control debate or campaign to vote those lawmakers out of office. One of those steps is to identify politicians who take donations from the National Rifle Association, a major lobbyist for Second Amendment rights.
Rosen-Heinz said while talking to the crowd that Moms Demand Action has gun-owning members and even NRA members among its ranks.
“There’s this common conception that everyone who’s talking about common sense gun legislation is wanting to round up everyone’s guns and throw them in a big bonfire and overturn the Second Amendment,” Rosen-Heinz said. “Our organization respects the Second Amendment. We just want reasonable responsibility tied to the right.”
Along with lobbying for government action, Moms Demand Action also hosts events and information sessions to raise gun safety awareness, such as the importance of locking guns in safes to prevent thefts or access by children.
Jim Nosal knows the pain of losing someone to gun violence. His daughter Caroline was shot and killed just over two years ago by former Metro Mart co-worker Christopher O’Kroley, who had blamed her for his firing.
Since his daughter’s death, Nosal said he has worked with advocacy groups and spoken with politicians regularly.
“I can’t not do this because every morning I wake up and realize my daughter won’t be there,” Nosal said.
Nosal said he was optimistic that the large turnout will last.
“I’m hoping that people will get it that we can change things,” Nosal said.