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'Million Mom March' draws 100 for gun control

Million Mom March activists in Washington D.C. on Sunday
Million Mom March activists in Washington D.C. on Sunday  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In vastly reduced numbers from last year's rally, mothers who support gun control were back at the National Mall on Sunday, renewing their calls for tougher laws aimed at curbing firearms violence.

Only about 100 supporters attended this year, compared with about three-quarters of a million supporters who took part in 2000.

"Any child in America can get a hold of a gun today," said Eleanor Holmes Norton, congressional delegate for the District of Columbia. "That's why women all across America today are converting Mother's Day into a day for our children; a day of remembrance for children dead from gunfire; a day to renew the battle for the gun bills Congress left on the table last year."

Organizers of the march said this year's attendance in Washington was lower because the focus was on promoting grass-roots action rather than a national event. The group held rallies and related events in 33 states to promote what organizers called "sensible gun laws."

Also at the rally on the National Mall was Washington Mayor Anthony Williams who applauded the participants. "Today's rally and the rallies of 33 other states across the country are visible proof that you're doing something to end violence," he said.

National Rifle Association spokesman Kelly Whitley said the organization noticed an upsurge in the call for gun-control legislation after last year's march, but added the agenda changed with the election of President Bush.

The Clinton administration was actively pushing new gun-control legislation, while the Bush White House says it would like to work with existing laws.

"We are really excited to see a new administration -- one that is looking to actually enforce the law against criminals, which we think will have a great impact on crime in this country," Whitley said.

Whitley said he believes the new Bush administration is why the Million Mom March has not focused its attention on Washington, but has instead gone to the state and local level to change laws.

Event founder lauds bipartisan support

Last year's march drew 750,000 mothers and others to the mall. Since then, the organization has formed 235 chapters across 46 states.

Million Mom March founder Donna Dees-Thomases said the group made great strides during the past year.

"For the Million Mom March, you know it's an incredible day because we have a day in Westchester County, New York, where we have Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking at an event where Gov. Pataki will be speaking," Dees-Thomases said. "That is true bipartisan support for this issue." Across the street from the rally, about a dozen protesters gathered. They charged the statistics cited by the Million Mom March are not legitimate, and argued that preserving gun rights and education is equally important.

According to Million Mom March, 10 children die each day from gun violence in the United States. The Million Mom March supports the licensing of handgun owners, the registration of handguns, creating consumer product safety standards for guns, closing the "gun show loophole" and limiting gun purchases to no more than one a month.

The gun show loophole is current federal legislation that allows people to purchase guns at gun shows without a background check that is required for gun sales at stores.

• Million Mom March

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