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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, July 23, 2024


At the end of the Million Mom March program on Mother's Day, May 14, 2000, the more than 400 coordinators were asked to come up on the stage to sing "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now!" And The Washington Post stated in an editorial the next day, "We think the Moms can win this one." Basically because we are not asking for much.
We just want a national law enacted for a dangerous product — handguns — requiring licensing and registration, the same as for any other dangerous product. We are not asking for the banning of handguns, as the pro-gun lobby seems to have buzzed in the ears of its followers. We are demanding that Congress pass "sensible gun legislation" for the safety of our children and loved ones.
We are continuing our mission and goals with the establishment of the Million Mom March Foundation. Chapters are forming all over the country. The march showed each of us that we are not alone. There were hundreds of thousands of us on the Mall in Washington, D.C., and thousands more at about 60 other rallies held across the country.
As District of Columbia coordinator for the Million Mom March, I was responsible for community outreach in Washington. By the start of February, the word had not gotten out much in D.C., even though the March had been planned since September 1999. I attribute this to the campaign being Internet-oriented — and in urban communities, computers are not that abundant.
On Feb. 3, the late night news reported plans for the Million Mom March to demand "sensible gun legislation" from Congress — licensing and registration of handguns, safety locks, purchase waiting periods, etc. The report gave the website, millionmommarch.com. I immediately got on the computer to sign up. One of the questions there asked what my motivation was for marching. I responded: "My son and only child's death certificate reads 'gunshot wound to the back damaging the kidneys and aorta' — and the illegal gun is still out in the community, along with the murderer."
A couple of days later, I received an e-mail from the MMM database coordinator stating that D.C. did not have a march coordinator. I volunteered, even though I had just gotten married, was in graduate school and was working in the Census 2000 program.
An easy decision, a difficult task
The decision to participate in the march was easy. The decision to coordinate the D.C. effort was difficult for me because of my personal and family commitments but even more so because I was still grieving over the loss of my son. During the MMM campaign, I would meet, counsel and console so many mothers and others similarly situated. The pain of losing a child is horrific and excruciating.
I elicited the help of a few close friends to help me get the D.C. effort going. One was Rhonda S. Hale. I met Rhonda on St. Thomas in 1995 when she was working in the Finance Department. Fortunately, Rhonda was with me the night I "got the call" about my son's murder. She was visiting me on St. Croix that day — Friday, Nov. 13, 1998. I had been on St. Croix for a year, working with the Property and Procurement Department, after having lived on St. Thomas (second time around) for three years.
I first visited the Virgin Islands in 1977. My son, Tyrone, and I lived from 1979 to 1982 on St. Thomas, where I worked as a legal secretary until returning to the mainland. In 1994, with my son grown and living on his own, I moved back to the V.I. Having been told that the one way to get a job was to work in a political campaign, I did a coin toss to decide which one to work on and came up with Schneider/Mapp. When the administration came into office in 1995, I went to work for Property and Procurement Commissioner Alvin Davis. In March of 1999, I returned to D.C. to be closer to my three grandchildren and to get married.
Other than the big one, my only child's death, life had been "Easy like Sunday Morning."
Rhonda took on the responsibility of D.C. financial representative for the Million Mom March. The MMM effort took over our lives. I cut back my hours at work and in the final weeks took a leave of absence. We did television, radio and newspaper interviews with media from as far away as Japan, Switzerland, Australia and England. We were on "Good Morning America," CNN and the "NBC Evening News" with Tom Brokaw; we guested with Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah.
We were invited to the White House three times to meet with President Clinton. The President and his cabinet members — especially Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Attorney General Janet Reno — were there for us. Secretary Shalala participated in one of our fund-raisers and gave up her handkerchief to me during one of my crying spells at the White House. (The MMM effort was very emotional for me, and I oftentimes cried when recounting my story.)
Laws alone don't stop the gun sales
The federal district has become a dumping ground for guns acquired illegally via "straw purchases" — buys made by individuals for other people who for various reasons would be prohibited from purchasing the weapons themselves — in nearby Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. This has taken a tremendous toll in lives in the D.C. community since 1987, right in the front- and backyard of our Congress. It is ironic that the district has the strictest gun laws in the country and yet gun-inflicted homicides have taken such a toll here that D.C. is one of the communities suing gun manufacturers.
According to information from another not-for-profit agency, Handgun Control Inc., a report released just last week by the U.S. Treasury Department documents more than 1,500 firearms trafficking investigations that led to the prosecution, conviction and sentencing of corrupt licensed dealers, unlicensed dealers, straw purchasers and stolen-gun traffickers. The report linked almost 26,000 of some 80,000 trafficked firearms with straw-purchaser investigations.
The bottom line is that we as mothers and others who are concerned about the lives of our children and loved ones want the carnage to stop; we don't want another mother or anyone to go through the pain of losing a child. Twelve children die each day in this country from gunfire. What has to happen for Congress to understand? Does the carnage have to hit them in their own homes and families? Why should it come to that?
What the MMM is asking is sensible — not the banning of handguns, just the licensing and regulation of them. I did not realize that this issue was so heated and that the opposition was so powerful until I got involved with the march plans. As the D.C. coordinator, I had my e-mail address on the MMM web site. About two weeks before Mother's Day, I believe the gun lobby started taking our organization real seriously. Charleston Heston's NRA kid safety commercial began running, and he attacked President Clinton for not enforcing the gun laws on the books. And I began to get threatening e-mails from what we call the "gun nuts."
From marching to mobilizing at home
Other coordinators throughout the country were having the same experience. We believe the gun lobby must have put out a message that we were threatening to take their guns. My e-mails piled up to where I was getting 300 or more a day, some from supporters, others from NRA members and other opponents. I began to feel a little uneasy, but I knew my son was looking down and saying, "Mom, get 'em. You can do it. Don't let 'em scare ya.."
Some of my close associates and family say that the Million Mom March was grief therapy for me. Perhaps it was. But every time I hear of another gun death — such as that of Jason Carroll, whom I knew as a youngster on St. Thomas — my pain is revisited twofold because of my grief and the nightmare I know the families are experiencing. We mothers and others of the MMM want to reduce this kind of heart-wrenching pain i
n our society.
We are continuing our efforts through the Million Mom March Foundation. Chapters are being throughout the United States. The foundation will focus on advocacy, education and resources for gun victims — and on lobbying Congress. One of our coordinators in Michigan is actually running for Congress, and another in New York is contemplating doing the same!
I was asked in a TV interview what the Moms planned to do after the march. My answer was: "You know how, sometimes, during delivery of our children, we have to push and push? Well, we Moms plan to push and push until Congress delivers sensible gun legislation in this country."
All the information needed to start a local chapter of the Million Mom March Foundation is on our website at www.millionmommarch.com.

Editor's note: Former V.I. resident Carlene "Tina" Jackson, District of Columbia coordinator for the Million Mom March, is hoping that mothers and others in the Virgin Islands will form an MMM Foundation chapter — or perhaps one in each district — to help advance the organization's goals in the territory.

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