Three Corvallis moms, spurred to action by the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., have emerged as the unlikely leaders of a growing local gun control movement.
Sarah Finger McDonald, Christy Anderson Brekken and Meghna Babbar-Sebens say they never thought of themselves as activists. But as mothers with two young children apiece, they felt compelled to do something after the slaughter of innocents at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“You can’t be hopeless in the face of this,” Brekken said. “I’m not hopeless — I’m angry, I’m scared, I’m frustrated, but I’m not hopeless.”
Already friends, the three women connected via social media in the days after the murder of 20 first-graders and six school staffers by a lone gunman. Seeking a constructive outlet for their grief, they soon found themselves doing something out of character: writing to elected officials.
Brekken drafted a letter, which McDonald and others have modified for their own use, calling for what they term “common sense gun control,” including a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“This is not about taking people’s Second Amendment rights away — it’s not about that at all,” Babbar-Sebens insisted. “It’s just about being sensible in how we use these dangerous weapons.”
Last week they started a Facebook page that has attracted more than 50 “likes,” and they’ve formed a local chapter of One Million Moms for Gun Control, a national grassroots campaign to promote gun legislation. They believe it’s the third chapter to form in Oregon.
In an effort to draw still more people to their cause, the fledgling group plans to hold a rally at 10 a.m. Saturday in Central Park.
“It’s sort of our coming-out party,” said McDonald.
Their biggest organizing tool, however, may turn out to be a letter they received from state Sen. Betsy Close, whose district includes parts of Linn and Benton counties.
Most of the politicians they wrote to have not yet replied. The few responses they did get were generally supportive — with the exception of Close, a conservative Republican and a staunch supporter of gun rights.
While the Sandy Hook killings were “a tragic loss,” Close wrote in a letter to McDonald, “I believe that we must be careful not to overreact and pass restrictive laws that will not solve the problem.”
She cited examples of school districts in Arizona and Texas using armed volunteers to guard schools, calling them “promising moves.”
McDonald and Brekken drafted a reply arguing that such an approach would increase rather than reduce the risk to students. When they circulated a copy among their friends, they gathered more than 300 signatures.
“We obviously have a real hunger for this sort of action in Corvallis and the surrounding area,” McDonald said.
They tried to meet with the senator last week to deliver their impromptu petition, but Close canceled the meeting and it has not yet been rescheduled.
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Close called the cancellation unavoidable and said she still hopes to meet with the local group. She also noted that she has not formally proposed putting armed volunteers in Oregon schools and said most of her fellow lawmakers in Salem are taking a cautious approach to any kind of gun control legislation.
“We’re all kind of studying this,” she said. “I think we have a long ways to go before we advocate anything.”
Contact reporter Bennett Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-758-9529.