A week after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed 17 lives, hundreds of gun control activists converged on the Gold Dome Wednesday morning to demand action from Georgia legislators.
The protesters were members and supporters of the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Their demands for legislators: support legislation that would allow local law enforcement in Georgia to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, oppose bills that loosen restrictions on who can carry a handgun in public and do not expand the state’s campus carry law into more places on campus.
Several of the group’s leaders spoke to the crowd through a megaphone from the steps of the Capitol. One of these was Julvonnia McDowell, who lived in Marietta when her son was accidentally killed by a teen playing with a gun while visiting family in Savannah.
“Last week, when I heard about the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that took 17 precious lives, my heart broke … We all deserve to live in a country where children and their parents do not have to fear going to school or being in their communities,” McDowell said. “Children are asking ‘Will my school be next? Will I be next?’”
While the leaders spoke, the members of the crowd cheered or offered chants, including “Common sense!” “Not one more!” and “Throw them out!”
One member of the crowd was Jeanne Menna, a real estate investor and mother of three from Kennesaw.
Menna said at first, she did not know if she would be welcomed at the rally because of her political persuasion.
“I’m a conservative Republican,” she said. “I vote a straight Republican ticket every time. I put all these people in office, including Donald Trump. Since this last school shooting in Florida, I have had trouble sleeping. I just felt like enough is enough. Instead of doing nothing, I decided I was going to start doing something.”
She started by looking online for groups of conservatives who favor gun control, but had trouble finding any. When she saw Moms Demand Action was holding a rally, she said she decided to make a sign that read “GOP moms for sensible gun regulation” and had a picture of a Republican elephant.
Menna said she felt like the only Republican in the crowd, but she said she got a very friendly response.
“People were very, very supportive,” she said. “Probably 100 people or more took a picture. They thought it was terrific that a Republican would act to support gun regulations. … They were thrilled because some of the rhetoric led them to believe that all Republicans are for absolutely no gun control.”
Menna said she tried to tell the members of the crowd that other Republicans feel the same way as she does. She said a lot of her conservative friends on social media have expressed the same opinions on restrictions for semiautomatic weapons, bump stocks and silencers.
“I think we need to start protecting our children, and the only way to do that in Georgia is for conservative Republicans like me to get on board,” she said. “My friends are looking for a way to support some of these, getting our elected officials to vote for regulations that will help our kids and keep them safe.”
In order to find other conservatives who support gun control measures, Menna said after the rally that she purchased a web domain, www.gopmoms.com, where she hopes others can meet and discuss action.
Andrea Teichner, who leads the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action, said many members of her organization own and shoot guns. She said Moms Demand Action does not want to ban guns, but to protect Second Amendment rights while also instituting reforms to help keep people safe.
“We’re not anti-gun, we’re pro-common sense gun laws,” she said.