By JOHN T. WARD
Volunteers with Moms Demand Action said the February 14 slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland has unleashed a surge of interest unseen since the group’s founding five years ago in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut murders of 27 children and adults.
“We’ve had just an outpouring of interest within the last week,” Elizabeth Friedman told redbankgreen prior to the start of the event, held at Shapiro’s New York Delicatessen on Broad Street.
The Monmouth and Ocean county chapter of the group typically gets 20 to 30 new members a month, but Friedman, of Freehold, said it’s hustling to bring on board hundreds of women and men who’ve joined in the last week. Some who’d hoped to attend Tuesday’s event were deferred to future meetings because it was fully booked, she said.
“People have had it with the violence,” said Theresa Turner, who co-leads the chapter with Friedman. “It’s crossing political lines. Even conservatives and gun owners are saying, ‘what can I do?'”
Tuesday’s meeting was thrown together to orient several dozen enrollees to Moms Demand Action’s history, objectives and ways of talking about gun laws.
The group’s agenda calls for background checks for gun buyers, including at gun shows; enhanced gun safety in homes; and “reasonable” limits on the carrying of guns in public.
“We don’t want to ban guns. We respect the Second Amendment, but with common sense legislation to keep them away from dangerous people and children,” Turner said.
“It’s not too soon to talk about what happened” in Parkland, Friedman told the audience. “Because ‘thoughts and prayers’ are not enough.”
Born as a Facebook group in the aftermath of Newtown, Moms Demand Action now has three million followers and chapters in every state, Friedman said.
Its role model, said Turner, is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, whose dogged work changed the widespread thinking about alcohol and road safety.
“Mothers get stuff done,” she said.
Deli owner Susan Shapiro, who lived in Newtown and whose daughter attended Newtown Elementary School before the 2012 murders there, said she was eager to lend her restaurant for the meeting.
“I’m sick to my stomach that nothing has been done” to curb access to firearms, she told redbankgreen. “It’s been six years. Now, I’m really hoping this is going to be the last one.”
A woman who recently moved to Fair Haven from out of the area and declined to give her name said she attended out of concern for her children’s safety in school.
“Part of me is wondering how, with a budget crisis going on, can schools afford to protect children,” she said.
Moms Demand Action plans to hold a new-member meeting Thursday, March 1, at 10 a.m. in Shrewsbury. The location has not yet been decided; check the “events” tab on its Facebook page for updates.