More than 50 faith groups participated in the Million Mom March, an event which attracted an estimated 500,000 people to the U.S. capital on May 14, Mothers' Day, to demand tougher laws on the ownership and use of guns.In addition, smaller marches took place in more than 65 cities across the US.Ranging from the African-American Women's Clergy Association and the African Methodist Episcopal Church to the American Baptist Church, USA, and the United Church of Christ, church groups organized, fed, housed and transported marchers and provided music throughout the day.Other faith groups endorsing the march included the Interfaith Alliance, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Presbyterian Church, USA, the National Council of Catholic Women, the American Jewish Committee, Church Women United, the Congress of National Black Churches, Jewish Women International, Pax Christi, USA, the Episcopal Church, USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the National Council of Churches.Across the sea of marchers—mostly women—were many banners and posters identifying individual congregations and denominational groups.Many mass killings, including some at schools, have made gun ownership one of the most controversial issues in the US. While gun owners and manufacturers insist that every citizen has a right to self-defense, and thus to have access to firearms, opponents point to statistics showing huge numbers of deaths brought about by a proliferation of gun ownership. According to statistics released at the march, in 1997 a total of 32,436 people in the US were killed by guns:

  • 17,566 were suicides.
  • 13,522 were homicides.
  • 981 were accidental shootings.
  • 367 were shooting deaths of undetermined intent.

Organizers of the march made five primary demands of US lawmakers regarding gun control:

  • A cooling-off period and extensive background check for anyone purchasing a handgun. This would prevent anyone from acquiring a gun on the spot from a dealer.
  • All gun owners must be licensed, and they must register their weapons with authorities.
  • Guns must meet minimum safety standards. "Gun manufacturers must design guns with built-in locks and with other common-sense devices like loaded-chamber indicators and child-proofing," according to a statement released by march organizers.
  • An end to "straw purchases," in which an individual who can legally purchase firearms buys guns for traffickers.
  • A no-nonsense enforcement policy by all law officers.

Nelda Gray, a member of Kirkwood United Methodist Church in Kirkwood, Missouri, said she attended the march because she wanted to be part of important social change."The most remarkable part was hearing the mothers of young murder victims talk about their losses," she told ENI. "In America, it seems gun rights are taken more seriously than people's rights."A retired professional counselor, Gray said she knew first-hand the dangers of guns in the lives of the mentally ill and mentally disabled. "I'm very aware of what happens when guns get in the hands of people who are off their medication or those under the influence of alcohol and drugs," she said. "Conflict resolution isn't going to happen when there's a gun present."Debi Holon, a mother of three teenagers and a member of the United Methodist Church in Sayreville, New Jersey said she attended the march because it finally seemed like a chance to be heard on something that's been bothering her for years. "As one speaker said, 'You just get tired of yelling at the TV'," she told ENI, referring to violence on television."I hope this is a kick-off for greater action to come," she said. "As soon as I get a chance, I'm going to find a local group wanting to continue this. And I'm going to vote for the people who support gun control."Some commentators pointed out that while federal and state governments might not act immediately to implement the demands made on Sunday, the march indicated a shift in opinion that could change US society. According to the Los Angeles Times, "few expect legislation requiring gun registration or safety locks—two goals of the march—to pass any time soon. The real legacy of the march may be a growing stigmatization of firearms that did not exist before—a sense that guns could go the way of cigarettes and alcohol as vices that, when used irresponsibly, are a badge of ignorance."Copyright © 2000 ENI.

Related Elsewhere offers a recap of the event and other opportunities for anti-gun involvement.For more on the Million Mom March, including links to news stories, opinion and commentary pieces, video, audio, and other resources, see Yahoo!'s full coverage area on gun control.