It started with a Facebook page.
Small wonder, in nexus of social media and social activism, that Bay Area women are in the forefront of One Million Moms For Gun Control, says Los Altan Ronit Bodner. Peninsula women were there Wednesday, watching in the Senate hearing room where both former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and National Rifle Association leader Wayne LaPierre testified.
“We were in the room when Sen. Feinstein introduced her assault weapons ban, and today our members are on the Hill attending the first Senate hearing on gun violence since the Sandy Hook tragedy,” said Sara Smirin, a Los Altos mother, in a email.
They want, as Indiana founder Shannon Watts does, for One Million Moms to become the modern-day gun control version of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Silicon Valley moms are going to be instrumental in getting there, Bodner thinks.
“I feel that we are kind of in the capital of start-ups, and I really see this as a start-up social movement,” said Bodner, an attorney.
“The people who have started the chapter, all of us, are combining our experience living in this area with social media and start-ups, and we are going to help this social movement start up.”
On Capitol Hill Tuesday, the dramatic appearance of Giffords, whose Congressional career—and plans for motherhood herself—was ended by a 24-year-old gunman who shot her in the head and killed six others, was heightened by the great effort with which she spoke. "Too many children are dying. Too many."
Be bold, she urged. "Be courageous. Americans are counting on you."
A short time came LaPierre’s testimony opposing expanded criminal background checks, and sparring with Gifford's husband, Mark Kelly.
Giffords and Kelly recently launched Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization promoting the implementation of universal background checks and limits on high capacity magazines.
And One Million Moms, supporting "commonsense gun control," has a role to play, leveraging social media and face-to- face pursuasion, Bodner said. She knows it will take numbers and organizing.
“A lot of the educating is being done via social media. But the work changing minds will have to be done on a person-to-person basis: Town Hall meetings with members on Congress. That has to happen live, in person.
“This is not going to be a movement about simply educating people online."
A week ago, Three days later, with the skies looking gray and dreary they met, strollers and all, at Crissy Field for a low-key walk to bring awareness to the gun control issue.
And the sun came out.
“We had RSVP's from Sonoma to Santa Cruz, said Tachner, who has been leading the local effort with two Marin moms, Amanda Mortimer and Cynthia Pillsbury. She added that the crowd was estimated at about 300 participants, which she described as “a mix of moms, dads, grandparents, and children of all ages.”
Mother of three Alissia Miller of Palo Alto, gave a short speech of welcome and thanks, reiterated the organization's four key legislative goals, and invited the crowd to move forward in solidarity with the 6000 marching in DC, and the 11 other events taking place across the country at the same time, Tachner said.
“It was our first chapter-wide event, and exceeded our expectations in every way.”
Like Watts, Bodner describes herself as an accidental activist.
It was the mowing down of the 20 children of Newtown galvanized her.
“It was really an issue that wasn't on my radar until Newtown,” she confessed. “That was the tipping point, personally, for me getting involved."
For every shooting as far back as the 1999 Columbine school masacre, she said—the 2011 shooting of Gabby Gifford and 17 others in Tucson, the Aurora movie theater last summer—she had the same reaction. “I would hear this story and wring my hands, and be frustrated and upset …and I didn't do anything.”
Then the stunning events of at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the school principal and teachers also died at the hands of a 20-year-old gunman using his mother’s AR-15 and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
“I said, ‘Enough. I can't not do anything,” Bodner said. This time was different.
“At this point, complacency feels like complicity.”
A lot of time such groups are started by people who have lost someone to gun violence, or have been victims themselves, Bodner said.
“They shouldn't have to do it alone.”
“Why am I expecting legislatures to do this?” Bodner asked. “Even when one of their own got shot, none of them would do anything."
But things can change. Giffords, helped by her husband before the Senate, but enunciating slowly and carefully, said “Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. ... We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now."
Bodner says they are getting ready. “ It’s going to take a lot more activism.” The social media, the meet ups, all go toward something.
“When we have a Town Hall meeting that's scheduled in a church or school or rec facility with members of Congress, people will be there to meet with the person who carries the message.
They need to know their constituents are going to vote on the issue.
“We have to use our collective voice as moms.”