The country's largest organization dedicated to reducing gun violence in America recently formed a chapter in the North Fork Valley.
Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America North Fork held its first meeting in Paonia on March 1. Organizer and chapter leader Joanna Engman opened the meeting with a brief history of the organization, which was founded by stay-at-home mom Shannon Watts in 2012 in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Ct. Since then it has established chapters in all 50 states and has "become the leading force in gun violence prevention," she said.
Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving's work to reduce drunken and drugged driving through legislative action, Moms Demand Action (MDA) seeks to reduce gun violence at the legislative level, said Engman.
Membership in the organization in the weeks following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School "is swelling like it never did before," Engman told the half a dozen citizens who attended the meeting. She said that a recent meeting of a newly formed Grand Junction chapter attracted about 60 interested citizens, and chapters are forming in Crested Butte and Durango.
A Colorado native and career nurse, Engman moved to the North Fork area from Grand Junction about a year ago. She never considered herself an activist until October's shooting in which a lone gunman killed 58 and injured 851 at a Las Vegas concert. Her two teenaged daughters live in Las Vegas and attend school a few blocks away. The night of the shooting, said Engman, she received a text from one of them saying, "Mom, there's been a shooting."
Engman said the experience left her feeling helpless, "Like I couldn't protect them." That night she went on-line and found MDA. As a nurse, she liked that the organization works at the legislative level and bases its actions on evidence showing what is most effective in addressing gun violence.
"I joined Moms the next day," said Engman.
A common misconception about the organization, said Engman, is that members are going after people's guns. "Many of the members own guns," she said. What they seek is "common sense legislation to gun control." Like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, "We are trying to change gun laws and protect our communities from gun violence."
Engman acknowledges that changing gun laws is complicated and divisive, and coming to consensus on solutions to ending gun violence is difficult. "But we all agree that we want these shootings to stop." She requested to have a police officer attend the chapter meeting after individuals posted on Facebook that they plan to attend with open carries, although they never showed.
There is a fear associated with going up against the NRA, which lobbies to protect Second Amendment rights. "But what I'm more afraid of is the violence our children face every day," said Engman. "We should be able to go to church and to the mall without fear."
Those interested in joining the local MDA chapter can contact Engman on Facebook at Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America - North Fork, or visit momsdemandaction.org.