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Moms Demand Action group advocates for 'common sense solutions' to gun violence

In discussions of gun violence in the United States, Danielle Veith often hears the same refrain: If nothing changed after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, it never will.

The Takoma Park woman, whose two children are ages 5 and 8, says she refuses to allow herself to become pessimistic.

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"There's this overwhelming sense that it's impossible to change," she said Sunday. "It doesn't happen overnight, but that doesn't mean that when we look back, we won't say that was the turning point."

Veith, president of the Maryland chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke to about 20 members in Ellicott City about her role as an activist and a mother. The nonpartisan organization — part of former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety group — says it supports the Second Amendment, but seeks "common-sense solutions" such as responsible gun ownership to end what she called the epidemic of gun violence across the country.

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Those views are shared by 70 percent of National Rifle Association members, she said. Moms Demand Action has opposed the gun group on issues such as allowing one state's concealed-carry license to apply in all others.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment Sunday.

In Maryland, Moms Demand Action pushed unsuccessfully for two pieces of legislation in this year's session. One would have required gun owners with convictions for domestic violence to forfeit their weapons. The other would have required background checks to buy long guns.

They plan to return to Annapolis to continue to advocate for both, Veith said.

The meeting at the Charles E. Miller Branch of the Howard County Public Library Sunday afternoon came about five months after authorities say 15-year-old Howard High School student Sean Crizer shot and killed his classmate, Charlotte Zaremba, injured her mother, Suzanne Zaremba, and then killed himself at a home in the Montgomery Knolls neighborhood.

Shannon Aissen, who teaches English for speakers of other languages at Howard High, rattled off a list of headline-grabbing shootings that have occurred in every city and town where she has lived: Washington, Salt Lake City, Utah; Knoxville, Tenn.; Charleston, S.C.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Columbia.

"All of these terrible things that have happened shouldn't happen anywhere," she said. "We should all be on the same page on this. We're not trying to take anyone's guns. We just want you to lock them up."

More recently, a man killed his wife and then himself in a murder-suicide in Ellicott City last month, according to Howard County police.

"We don't have to live this way," Aissen said. "It's preventable."

Ninety-three Americans are killed with guns every day — nearly 12,000 per year — and 51 women are shot to death by their intimate partners every month, according to Everytown. More than half of gun deaths are the result of suicide, the group says, and nearly 100 children were killed in unintentional shootings in 2013.

The effects are especially poignant in Baltimore, Veith said, where killings have surged in the last two years. In 2015, the city's deadliest year per capita, 344 people were killed, followed by 318 homicides in 2016. More than 150 people have been killed in Baltimore so far in 2017.

Howard County Councilman Calvin Ball, who attended the meeting, suggested that group members advocate to politicians at the local and state levels.

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"The council members of today are the county executives of tomorrow," he said. "Governors become presidential candidates or senators."

Ruth Hughes, leader of the Howard County section of Moms Demand Action, said in the meantime children are being "literally caught in the crosshairs."

Veith encouraged the group to adopt the "SMART" strategy: securing guns, modeling responsible behavior, asking about unsecured guns in other homes, recognizing the risk of teen suicide and telling peers about the strategy.

"If we lose our children, we have nothing left to lose," Veith said. "We're not going to stop. We're fighting for our children."

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