Two groups interested in reducing gun violence showed up at the National Rifle Association headquarters outside Fairfax City Thursday morning with petitions seeking the NRA’s help on that issue. They said the petitions, in thick binders, contained 150,000 online signatures.
The NRA would not accept the petitions. A staff member was sent outside to deny any of the citizens access to the NRA headquarters on Waples Mill Road, and to repeat the words, “We do not accept them,” without any further explanation.
The petitions were gathered by MomsRising.org, a national online group that advocates for family issues such as health care, education and equal pay. Their members joined the Reston-Herndon Alliance to End Gun Violence, who have begun gathering outside the NRA headquarters on the 14th of every month, the day that 20 children were killed in Newtown, Conn.
“This is more a vigil than a protest,” said Joanna Simon of the local group, “to remember all the people killed by gun violence.” Also present were Lori Haas of Richmond, whose daughter was wounded in the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, and Del. Ken Plum (D) of Reston, who said he was determined not to let the grass roots momentum generated by Newtown fade away.
The NRA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One of the local vigil members was overcome by emotion and fell to her knees, praying and sobbing. Louisa Davis of Reston said she heard someone ask whether the members knew anyone whose family had been victimized by gun violence.
“I thought the question should be, does anybody NOT have gun violence in their family,” Davis said. She said her nephew was a homicide victim in North Carolina, devastating her brother’s family and causing her brother to commit suicide.
“This is toxic, what it does,” Davis said. “It doesn’t just kill one person, it kills families.” Weeping, she said, “I feel like we have so much more power on our knees than walking around in circles.”
Gloria Pan, a member of MomsRising from Herndon, said the group had a million members and had launched a petition calling only for “common sense solutions to reduce gun violence.” She said the NRA ”has to listen at some point.” After Newtown, Pan said, members rose up in support of background checks for gun purchasers, a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and stronger laws against gun trafficking.
“The NRA leadership,” Pan said, “is one of the biggest obstacles to meaningful gun violence reduction policy.”
Haas, a veteran of the gun policy dispute since Virginia Tech, said , ”Our goal is to dry up the illegal gun market by background checks on all buyers. Gun owners and NRA members are with us in support of background checks on all buyers. Clearly the NRA leadership cares more about guns than children or keeping our community safe.”
Shaun Dakin of Falls Church said he joined the NRA “to be part of the discussion and influence it from the inside, as a paying member.” He stood holding the binders of rejected petitions. “But clearly they’re not ready to listen to paying members.”