Melissa Mitchell-Hooge was busy Friday morning doing typical mom chores: taking one of her sons to school, thinking that her cellphone battery would run out before she made another call, and worrying that rain may put a damper on her ambitious Saturday plans.
Being a mom also has prompted Mitchell-Hooge to spend uncountable hours with other Ashland moms, including Linda Loenneker, to organize a march for gun control starting at 10 a.m. today at the Ashland library.
The march is in response to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 children and six staff members, and the ongoing national discussion about gun and ammunition restrictions.
One Million Moms for Gun Control Southern Oregon Chapter will hold a public march starting at 10 a.m. today, Jan. 26, at the Ashland library, 410 Siskiyou Blvd. People of all ages are invited to walk to Lithia Park to demonstrate support for stricter gun control laws.
The group wants to see lawmakers:
Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines of more than 10 rounds.
Require background checks for all gun purchasers.
Require the reporting of sales of large quantities of ammunition to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Limit the scope of concealed weapons laws at the state level.
"As moms, we want to protect kids and we need sensible gun control laws to do this," says Mitchell-Hooge, whose sons are Ashland High School student Jack, 16, and Rogue Community College student Nick, 19.
"Those kids in Newtown could have been my kids," she says. "They could have been your kids. It does not matter whose children they were. We as moms were devastated by that tragedy and we need to stand up to save lives by slowing down gun violence."
The march is one of more than 75 scheduled to take place today, all tied to a national march in Washington, D.C., that is sponsored by March on Washington for Gun Control and co-sponsored by One Million Moms for Gun Control.
Mitchell-Hooge's group, the Southern Oregon Chapter of One Million Moms for Gun Control, has been inviting friends to attend the march and posting information on its Facebook page www.facebook.com/OneMillionMomsForGunControlSouthernOregon.
"A lot of us wish we could be in Washington, but we can't make it, so we're having little marches," says Mitchell-Hooge, who is an office administrator at Reliable Property Services in Ashland.
She says she hopes to have a couple dozen people holding signs and marching one mile from the library to Lithia Park.
"It will be interesting to see what kind of turnout we get," she says. "But any number is fine. Basically, we're going out there to be in solidarity with other marching moms."
Mitchell-Hooge, 44, says she got the idea to organize an event at a candlelight vigil on the Ashland Plaza a day after the Newtown shooting.
"Another mother said, 'We have to do more than this. We can't have vigils for every time this happens.' So we decided to call a meeting and take to the streets," says Mitchell-Hooge.
After searching the Internet, she found the website www.onemillionmomsforguncontrol.org and started a local chapter.
"I really felt strongly that I had to do something," she says. "The Newtown tragedy crossed the line for a lot of people. It's not enough to wait for sensible gun control laws to be passed. It takes enough people to stand up and say that it's time. Washington needs to hear from everyday Americans about this."
She says she will speak to state and national lawmakers after the event.
Mitchell-Hooge has organized efforts before, including working with a group of parents to save school playgrounds for public use after Lincoln and Briscoe elementary schools were closed.
Now, she's focused on protecting schoolchildren, starting with today's march.
"I haven't even considered what we will do if it rains," Mitchell-Hooge said Friday. "But we'll figure something out. We're moms."
Reach reporter Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or firstname.lastname@example.org.