The Delaware County Times Column: Delco United aims for sensible gun policy
By TERRY RUMSEY
and ROBIN LASERSOHN
Times Guest Columnists
Monday, October 7,2013
On Monday, September 23, 2013, a standing-room only crowd of over 125 people squeezed into the Parlor Room at the Media Borough Community Center for the Kickoff event of Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy. Delaware County United is a new, county-wide organization that is working for common sense measures to reduce gun violence in our communities. The large, enthusiastic gathering of supporters from Chester, Media, Newtown Square, Springfield and dozens of other communities throughout Delaware County represented a powerful base for launching a new organization.
Media Mayor Bob McMahon, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, gave the welcome and requested a moment of silence for all Americans lost to gun violence, before, at, and since the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. Francine Wheeler, the mother of six-year old Ben Wheeler who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, was the featured speaker. After the mass shooting at her son’s school, Francine was selected by President Obama to deliver the weekly Presidential Radio and Internet Address. She was born in Newtown Square, Delaware County, so coming to speak in Media was a homecoming for her.
“It never crossed my mind, that my son would be shot and killed in his classroom. Gun violence is what happens to other people, not in Newtown, Connecticut,” explained the still-grieving mother to a rapt and misty-eyed audience. “That’s what I thought. But there are so many people killed, so many kids are killed. There is so much gun violence. There are 30,000 gun deaths in America each year. All of those mothers and fathers will wake up as I do, every morning, for the rest of our lives, missing our kids.”
Francine then urged everyone in the room to support current legislation in the Pennsylvania legislature to require background checks on the private sales of long guns (such as the military-style weapon used at Sandy Hook) in Pennsylvania.
Right after Ms. Wheeler finished speaking, Movita Johnson Harrell, a Lansdowne, Delaware County mother who lost her teen son to gun violence, shared her story of loss and called on people to speak out against the proliferation of illegal guns on the streets. Ms. Johnson Harrell’s talk was followed by compelling presentations about gun policy by Mitch Vidovich, who read a statement from U.S. Senator Pat Toomey; U.S. Congressman Robert Brady; former U.S. Congressman Admiral Joe Sestak; Pennsylvania State Representative Ronald Waters; and Chester Mayor John Linder. U.S. Senator Bob Casey and State Representative Tom Killion also sent representatives to show their support for Delaware County United’s Kickoff.
Romie Griesmer, Chairperson of Delaware County United’s Legislative Committee, explained that the new group is initially focusing on supporting Pennsylvania House Bill 1010 – which will expand background checks on guns sales in the state – but is also pursuing a long-term strategy for enacting comprehensive, federal background checks on all gun sales, banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazine clips, and stopping the flow of illegal guns onto the streets of Chester and other communities on the front lines of gun violence.
As the evening came to a close, the audience was reminded that a new movement in Delaware County was just beginning. Organizers passed out information with the group’s upcoming events. The following Thursday evening after the Kickoff, twenty-five Delaware County residents held signs and banners at the group’s monthly vigil in Media at Route 252 and Baltimore Pike. More plans for action will be discussed and decided at Delaware County United’s next general meeting, which will be held at Springfield Friends Meeting House/Peace Center of Delaware County, 1001 Old Sproul Road in Springfield on Monday, October 7th at 7: 00 PM. For more information, contact Terry Rumsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484-326-1370.
Terry Rumsey and Robin Lasersohn, Co-Chairs of Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy
342 West 4th Street, Media, PA 484-326-1370
[Terry Rumsey and Robin Lasersohn are partners in marriage and organizing who have been working together for social justice in Delaware County for more than 30 years. They called the first meeting in Delaware County after the Sandy Hook Massacre and were selected as the first Co-Chairs of Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy.]