Group for gun reform grows Triangle membership after Florida shooting

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Triangle-area parents are planning how they will pursue gun reform from local legislators.

Activists with the national group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense are holding meetings across the country this weekend and in the days to come.

They are rallying to get the government to take action in the wake of the mass murder at a Florida school this past week.


“It is difficult to do it again, and again, and again, but there’s been a big difference this time,” said KaKi McKinney, the co-leader for Moms Demand Action’s North Carolina chapter.

“People were demanding (conversation) right now, whereas before, we felt like we were planning an event and then coaxing people to come. This one was like, what are we doing? Can we do something right now?”

Melanie Downs was eager to get involved. A former educator, current mental health clinician, and mother, Downs made donations to the group in the past.

After Wednesday’s shooting in Parkland, Florida left 17 dead, she decided to dive right in.

She offered to host a Durham County meeting at her house just days after joining the group. A total of 66 volunteers including moms, dads, and at least one proud aunt packed into her front room, foyer, and stairwell to talk about the next steps.

“As more of these situations happen and occur, I’m just fed up. I’m tired of nothing being done and it just happens over and over again, and the cycle continues. I’m ready to put some action into what I’ve been talking about for so many years,” Downs said.

The current movement includes the slogan “Throw Them Out” along with a matching online hashtag, directed at legislators who do not support gun reform, particularly members of Congress whose campaigns accept contributions from the National Rifle Association and its lobbyists.

Coordinators want people to contact their representatives, get them to commit to vote for gun safety and to vote out anyone who won’t go on the record with that commitment.

Participants are encouraged to get their friends to vote, and if they can’t find a candidate to back, then to run for office themselves.

“Politicians often like to use ‘it’s too soon, we need to talk about it later,’ but you know, it’s too late for the parents of those 17 dead,” McKinney said.

“It is never too soon to talk about ways, common sense gun laws that we can have in place, that would prevent this from happening ever again.”

Kaaren Haldeman was among the first North Carolinians to get involved with the group, which formed after the 2012 murders of 20 first-grade students and six school staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“We are furious. We are sad. We are angry,” Haldeman said to the crowd at Downs’ home. “There’s so much we can do. We are here to make a difference, and we will.”

Haldeman said Moms Demand Action wants to make it clear that the organization is not against guns and does not endorse a particular political party.

There are members who own firearms, and they have backed both Democrats and Republicans. Leaders sometimes distribute free gun locks at rallies and during some individual meetings.

They want stronger laws and are seeing a surge in interest after the February 14 mass shooting in Florida. The group and its partner organization Everytown for Gun Safety launched a new initiative this week called Students Demand Action.

“When you’re in the movement you can see all of the changes that have been made. There’s a lot that’s changed since Sandy Hook. We even have a seat at the table in conversations in our legislature that we never would have had. We are stopping bad bills, we are playing good defense. It is all really important, but it is time to move forward,” Haldeman said.

“What’s different now (from Sandy Hook) is that the students who were affected now can talk about it. These kids are articulate. They are smart. They are connected, they understand the gravity of the situation, and they are upset. They are talking about it like it’s their lives, because it is.”

Moms Demand Action N.C. will have a meeting Sunday evening in Chapel Hill for parents in the Orange and Chatham county areas. There will also a be a new member meeting Monday in Raleigh, with Asheville, Charlotte, and Winston-Salem sessions in the next few weeks.


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