WHEN MOTHERS speak, wise men and women listen.
Today, Mother's Day, hundreds of thousands of mothers -- across lines of race, religion and region -- will join the Million Mom March for sensible gun control. Their message, like the wisdom mothers have dispensed for generations, is plain and powerful: guns are killing too many in this country. The time for excuses, delay, or inaction is over. We need to take steps now to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of people who should not have them.
Not since 1968, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy were shot, have so many been so united in this cause. The thousands who will march in Washington and across the country on this Mother's Day are speaking out not for a dream, but for an end to the nightmare of gun violence.
The mothers are calling for action: licensing and registration to ensure that gun owners have safety training and cannot sell guns to children, criminals or the dangerously disturbed.
They want gun safety measures like gunlocks on every gun sold. They want an end to political doublespeak. They don't accept the gun lobby's false claim that instead of new laws, we need better law enforcement, better parenting, and better schooling. The mothers don't think these are choices. They want measures that will bring guns under control -- licensing and registration, and better enforcement and better education and moral instruction.
Nothing is more painful than to lose a child. Nothing can shake one's faith more than to have an innocent child killed by a stray bullet. The mothers call the names where children have been lost -- Flint, Columbine, Jonesboro, the National Zoo -- and say that we have not done enough to keep guns out of the hands of kids.
Ask your mother whether it makes sense that a convicted felon like Buford Forrow, Jr., the white supremacist who fired on the children at day camp in Grenada Hills, Calif., was able to buy deadly weapons at a flea market. Explain to your mother why we license and register drivers and cars, but don't demand the same when it comes to gun buyers and guns.
The National Rifle Association has just about convinced politicians that by posing tough on enforcing the law, they can continue to protect guns rather than kids. The mothers are saying clearly that they are not falling for the sham.
A recent, comprehensive study of gun laws in all 50 states reveals that states have many laws against the illegal use of guns, but almost no laws to keep guns from those who should not have them in the first place. A grieving mother gets little solace from prosecuting the child who shot her child. Thirty-five states lack any form of licensing or registration, making it impossible to track guns as they are resold with no questions asked.
Against the gun lobby's disinformation, the mothers are asking people to look at reality.
Today in America, it is too easy to get a gun without a license. Today, in America, 80 of us will lose our lives to gun violence -- wrong place, wrong time victims, unlocked and loaded in the house victims, neighbor killing neighbor victims, drive-by shooting victims. Today in America, gun violence will claim the lives of 12 -- the same number as those massacred at Columbine High School -- and will do so every single day. Today, in America, mothers are saying it is time to act.
The mothers could just make the difference. For years, a broad majority of Americans have supported sensible gun control. But a mobilized minority spearheaded by the NRA with its big money politics and hardball tactics has blocked progress. Now mothers are saying that they expect action and will hold politicians accountable.
When mothers began to move against drunk driving, politicians learned to ignore the liquor lobby and listen to their constituents. Now the politicians may learn to ignore the gun lobby and listen to their mothers.
I counsel those who have lost loved ones. I know that there is no greater sorrow than a mother grieving for a lost child, or a child weeping for a lost mother. And there is no greater shame than a society that puts its mothers and its children at needless risk because it won't take common sense steps to control guns.
Today, mothers across the country are calling upon us to move beyond posturing and politics. They call upon us to take action to protect the children. Surely, it is time to listen.
Jesse L. Jackson is president of the National Rainbow Coalition.