Nick Wilcox wore a button with a picture of his late daughter and spoke of the satisfaction of joining other gun-control advocates Sunday at a rally to urge renewal of a federal ban on assault weapons.
“It’s always gratifying to be with kindred spirits, and that’s what this is,” said Wilcox, whose 19-year-old daughter, Laura, was one of two workers at a mental health department office in California shot to death in 2001 by a patient.
The assailant used a 9mm semiautomatic handgun with an illegal 30-round clip, Wilcox said. “I don’t believe assault weapons belong on our streets. If people want to play with such tools, they should join the military,” said Wilcox, who came from Nevada County, Calif., with his wife, Amanda, for the second “Million Mom March.”
The demonstration, attended by about 2,000 people, was much smaller than the original one, which took place on Mother’s Day four years ago.
Several hundred gun rights supporters also held their own rally, organized by Second Amendment Sisters, at Freedom Plaza near the White House.
Speakers at the “Halt the Assault” rally reminded the crowd to “Remember November!” as they spoke mainly of a need to renew a ban on assault rifles that is to expire Sept. 13.
“We are working very hard in Iraq to get AK-47s off the street, to get Uzis off the streets. The president says we’re fighting the war on terror by doing that,” said Rep. Chris van Hollen, D-Md. “What about the terror right here on our streets at home.”
He also decried a provision in the law that critics contend allows owners of legal firearms to replace the housing for the firing mechanism and turn them into illegal assault weapons. He tied the loophole to October 2002 sniper attacks that killed 10 people in van Hollen’s Maryland district, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
“We need to close that loophole, because real bullets that killed real people went through those loopholes,” van Hollen said.
Another Democratic representative, Carolyn McCarthy of New York’s Long Island, urged people to volunteer to spread the word about the expiring assault weapons ban. McCarthy’s husband was among six people killed and her son was one of 19 wounded in a 1993 shooting spree aboard a Long Island Rail Road commuter train.
“We don’t want to come back here on Mother’s Day again. We want to be with our families and loved ones,” McCarthy said. “Let’s do it. Let’s make it permanent.”