July 3rd, 2008 08:01 PM
July 3rd, 2008 09:07 PM
Celebrating anti-2A failure
Pro 2A groups are getting more entrenched, antis are leaning more toward compromise. A nice trend.
The Mom Behind a Movement
Old Town Woman Leads Gun Control Effort
By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008; Page VA01
Old Town Alexandria's Abby Spangler didn't set out to start a national movement for tighter gun controls.
But she took note when two students shot their classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado. She watched moms keep their kids inside when the D.C. snipers terrorized the Washington region. Then five Amish girls were shot in their Pennsylvania schoolhouse. Finally, on the morning of April 16, 2007, when Seung Hui Cho opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing 32 students and teachers before killing himself, Spangler decided she couldn't stand back anymore.
"I'd been thinking, 'Is this what we've come to in America?' " she said. "But when Virginia Tech happened, I said, 'I've had enough.' Then when I found out the Virginia Tech shooter got his gun in a matter of minutes, I was outraged. I decided that someone had to speak out and say this is unacceptable. We're not just going to light candles to mourn the victims. We're going to protest for change."
Within a week, Spangler, 43, had been transformed from a stay-at-home mother of two, ages 4 and 7, and part-time cellist to the leader of a movement, Protest Easy Guns. It has a Web site and YouTube postings. Followers have organized "lie-ins" across the country, including 70 on April 16, the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting.
Spangler has testified in Richmond, calling for background checks on all gun sales at gun shows. (The proposal died, despite backing by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.) She is lobbying members of Congress on the issue. She has been joined at her lie-ins by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, police officers, Vietnam War veterans, college students, teenagers, grandmothers, Virginia Tech survivors, victims' family members and Americans of all political persuasions.
At a lie-in -- which she first called a "die-in" -- 32 protesters dressed from head to toe in black, representing Cho's victims, lie on the ground in silence for three minutes, the amount of time it took Cho to kill most of them.
"I knew nothing about gun laws and gun control before this happened. Zero," she said. Now, she is a fountain of statistics, data and arguments and counter-arguments on all facets of gun control. Now, she says things such as, "There is a continuing calamity of Titanic proportions, and we Americans need to right the ship" and "What's the point of us teaching our little Johnnies and Janes to be good people and allow them to walk in the streets with criminals who have easy access to guns? We might as well be throwing them into a tank of sharks."
Spangler lives in Old Town in a brick house built in 1840. In a corner of her living room sits a music stand with Bach's Six Suites and her cello.
"We played Mahler and Puccini last night," she said of a performance with the Washington Philharmonic Orchestra. Brightly colored pool toys are scattered around the patio, and children's toys, games, puzzles, firetrucks, scooters, fish tanks and books dot the kitchen and family room.
But it is the green room with the crystal chandelier that once served as the dining room that has become the nerve center of her efforts.
The table is stacked with newspaper clippings, studies on gun violence, position papers, bags of orange and maroon ribbons, and red Protest Easy Guns posters. Triangular mailing boxes are stacked in a corner. They are the key to the movement's easy spread across the country, she said. Each is a Protest in a Box. Spangler fills each one with everything a local lie-in leader needs to stage a protest. When it is over, Spangler asks only that the box be passed to someone else.
"I wanted it to be easy," she said. "I wanted to show that if even a diaper-changing mom like myself could lead one, anyone could. We all have busy lives. It's hard to get involved, because we don't know if it will make a difference. So a Protest in a Box, with a step-by-step guide and copies of the original letter to send to friends, makes it easy."
Spangler said she is sometimes startled by how much her life has changed in a year.
It all started from raw passion, she said. "The Virginia Tech massacre was on Monday. I was just doing the normal preschool mom thing -- going to the sandlot, pushing the kids on the swings. But I couldn't stop thinking how tragic it was," she said. Every time she looked at her two children and put herself in the place of a parent whose child had died that day, she couldn't bear it, she said. "On Tuesday night, I just remember bursting out in tears."
She had been watching a movie -- she can't remember which, but the message was about fighting back. She decided she would do something but had no idea what. On Wednesday, taking a walk along the Potomac River, the idea of a lie-in came to her. "It was instinctive, just BANG, I'm going to get 32 friends to lie down with me," she said. "As a mother, I was outraged for my fellow Virginians."
She said she had no idea how to stage a protest, so she just started e-mailing friends, neighbors and other moms. Within six days of the shooting, she had organized her first lie-in in front of City Hall in Alexandria. She and her friends were draped in maroon and orange ribbons, Virginia Tech's colors.
After that, people asked her what came next. "I said I didn't know. I was exhausted," she said. "But then I thought I could try to make this into something. What was the worst thing that could happen? It wouldn't take off? That I'd embarrass myself? I'd found out that 80 percent of people in most polls want to have tighter gun laws -- we just had to find a way to mobilize them."
Spangler found a host of volunteers willing to create and run the Web site and print the posters. And, as the president of the family-run C.D. Spangler Foundation, a philanthropic group that reported about $447 million in assets in 2006, Spangler has the ability to bankroll the movement. She won't ever raise money for it, she said. The movement is all about the people's will.
And if anyone would know how to tap into the grass roots, it's Spangler. She spent years studying social movements for her political science doctorate at Columbia University. Her dissertation, "The Politics of Disease: Social Movement Responses to AIDS, Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer in the United States," is a look at three movements that successfully changed policies, boosted funding and research and saved lives. The key to each was that they were led by the people, she said. They were fueled by outrage and passion at the grass-roots level. They used creativity and repeated their messages until things changed.
"The message from these social movements is this: People rising up together to have their collective voice heard can make change," she said.
Critics in the gun rights community beg to differ.
"I'm familiar with her lie-ins. I don't see the purpose of it," said Philip Van Cleave, who heads the Virginia Citizens Defense League. "It doesn't seem to be effective in changing anything, as far as I can tell."
"When you consider that we had just had the Virginia Tech massacre just that prior year, the fact that the gun show law didn't change basically shows that the right to keep and bear arms is strong in Virginia. Because even with all the lie-ins and the emotions involved and groups like Abby Spangler's efforts to make hay out of it, the Virginia Assembly looked at it and decided there is no loophole. And nothing changed."
In fact, Van Cleave said, for the first time, both the House and Senate passed legislation this year that would have allowed those with concealed weapons permits to carry loaded guns into restaurants that serve alcohol. (Current law allows people to openly carry a loaded gun into such places, but not concealed.) Both houses also passed legislation that would have permitted someone to transport a loaded gun in a locked container without a permit. Kaine vetoed both bills.
Lawmakers did tighten up the mental health provisions in the law, which Cho had slipped through. But Van Cleave said his group successfully lobbied to make it easier for gun rights to be restored after a person's mental health crisis has passed.
But Spangler said she is not giving up. She has just signed a lease for office space because the movement has outgrown her dining room and her ability to lead it for the three afternoons a week that she has a babysitter.
"It is a complete and utter outrage," she said, that Virginia lawmakers will continue to allow private sales at gun shows with no background checks. After Columbine, she said, the Colorado legislature resisted calls to close the gun show loophole. When lawmakers refused to act, voters pushed for a public referendum and overwhelmingly voted to close it. "Guess who doesn't have public referendums?" she said. "Virginia."
Spangler is no stranger to controversy. She grew up in Charlotte. Her parents were active in desegregation efforts -- her father pushed for it as head of the State Board of Education in North Carolina -- and she was bused across town to what had been an all-black public school. "That transformed my life and the way I look at people," she said. "One of my first memories is running to answer the phone and someone saying, 'I'm going to kill your father.' "
So she is not surprised when she gets e-mails such as one she clicked on in her kitchen: "Be careful what you believe. It may cost you your life." She shrugged it off. "From an early age, I learned the importance of standing up for what you believe," she said.
She also grew up learning how to shoot rifles and shotguns at camp. Her group is not opposed to that. Nor to hunting. Nor to lawful gun ownership, she said. What it wants, she said, is background checks for all gun sales and a ban on assault weapons.
What keeps her going, she said, are the Virginia Tech survivors and victims' families. Joe Samaha, who lost his daughter Reema in the shooting, praised Spangler for her "perseverance, tenacity and courage" as he recently presented her with the Brady Campaign's Advocate Award. "All of our angels thank you," he told her.
Spangler is working with Reema's brother Omar to push back against another growing movement -- students in favor of concealed weapons on campuses.
She touched a silver disk she wears on a chain around her neck. In the center is the number 32. "They are my bosses," she said, the victims of gun violence across the country and "the 32 Virginia Tech victims. That's who I work for, to prevent that from happening again in our country."
"Each worker carried his sword strapped to his side." Nehemiah 4:18
Guns Save Lives. Paramedics Save Lives. But...
Paramedics With Guns Scare People!
July 3rd, 2008 09:40 PM
I wouldn't put too much belief in unknown propaganda. You can't honestly tell me the anti's don't have any back-up plans or strategy. The most dangerous thing that can happen to us now is to start feeling comfortable. We may all be breathing a sigh of relief, but we do live in reality more than the enemy, and if you think they're down and kicked in the gut---keep on kickin'. Never get lulled into the notion that the enemy is retreating, or scrambling for cover---they're just likely reorganizing and making new priorities. History has proven one fact throughout the ages----never-never underestimate your enemy. Compromise is seldom good---go for the win and they'll all know their place.
Celebrating anti-2A failure
Pro 2A groups are getting more entrenched, antis are leaning more toward compromise. A nice trend.
July 4th, 2008 02:27 AM
Holy crap! what a load of sensationalist tripe. Emotion is her boss and fear is what she feels.
Originally Posted by paramedic70002
"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"
July 4th, 2008 07:13 AM
Ram Rod is exactly right. The Heller decision is important and gives us an opening to make further strides in protecting (and restoring) our right to keep and bear arms. Now is the time to move with energy to take advantage of of it.
Originally Posted by Ram Rod
But the other side will be right back at work, chipping at the edges and playing the fear monger to an even greater extent. Their fund-raising will no doubt improve because of Heller.
We have to keep up the pressure on the Congress and on the state legislatures to make sure that "reasonable" restrictions -- like another assault weapons ban -- don't make it into law while we're busy congratulating ourselves.
"We're paratroopers. We're supposed to be surrounded!" Dick Winters
July 4th, 2008 12:00 PM
+1! The sad part is the gang bangers and wannabies are feeding into this frenzy, and it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We've either got better reporting or more violence, but all I've seen over the last few months is an exponential rise in shootings. Much of this can be chalked up to election year politics. The MSM won't differentiate good shoots from bad shoots. Instead, we just hear about "another shooting at this store, or that intersection....."
Originally Posted by rodc13
We need to stay on the offensive and quickly condem bad shoots, regardless of the circumstances or intentions. The pool of lawful firearms owners has exploded over the last year and this might also contribute to the raw number of shootings (though the percentage of lawful shoots is likely to remain static). I have several friends (dealers) who sell at Florida gun shows and a few here in Colorado. All of them have said their sales have tripled over the last year. Some (only some) of the buyers demonstrate any knowledge of firearms or safety. Most of the buyers are total newbies who balk at the suggestion of any training. The sale is consumated because revenue is revenue and if my friends refused the sale to someone unwilling to learn, they'll buy from someone else.
We (as firearms owners) need to increase the pressure on our lawmakers and put forth a positive image of responsibility and lawful ownership within our community. We got complacent before and new "feel-good" laws and restrictions were codified right before our eyes. We cannot afford that again.
Last edited by sniper58; July 4th, 2008 at 12:01 PM.
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Si vis pacem, para bellum
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