July 28, was a beautiful day, not only for the sun and occasional clouds, but for the 90-plus voices gathered on the boulevard along Fairview Avenue. Of the 90 who were there, 34 were Women With Walkers who invited any and all to join them in calling for a total ban on military-style firearms. They sang, listened to speakers, waved at passing cars, and held up signs to go public with their demand for action. A second rally, expected to be larger, was scheduled for August 28.

Women With Walkers
Women With Walkers and their supporters push for a ban on assault rifles in a demonstration on July 28 along Fairview Avenue in Highland Park.

Making her voice heard at that first rally was Mary Ann Hanley, 99. “Those weapons were designed for war; no reason a citizen needs one,” she said. Mary Kranz, 87, wondered aloud why anyone would want to come to the United States with guns everywhere. Sadly, there are more guns in our nation than there are people. As for the assault type, we have an estimated 5-10 million of these weapons in our homes, businesses and communities.

Our overgrown gun culture

The school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, shocked the nation and proved too much for Mary Kruser, a resident of Carondelet Village. She gathered people like herself and many more to voice their demand to rid our nation of at least one part of our overgrown gun culture. The unbelievable capacity of the AR-15 to destroy must be eliminated. It was the testimony of Uvalde’s sole pediatrician, Dr. Roy Guerrero, that solidified Kruser and her cohorts’ determination to do something: Bodies “pulverized and decapitated…flesh so ripped apart” was what he saw that terrifying day.

We have grown the largest gun culture in the world. Apparently gone are the days when guns were for hunting and target practice. Before the turn of the century, the gun industry’s ads appealed to hunters. Not so today when a mere 10 percent do so. The New York Times reported on June 18 that gun sellers have two goals—more guns and freer access to them. And they are getting their way. In the U.S., firearms sales have skyrocketed. In 1990, there were 74,000 military-style weapons manufactured. In 2013, there were 2.3 million.

Fear sells

Fear of crime and fear of mass shootings are prime motivators. In other words, if you sense you are in danger, get yourself a firearm. Gun industry research reveals what else sells: lack of trust in others, fear of losing control, and the need to prop up one’s self-esteem. The message to young men: Be a man, get a gun!

Women With Walkers may have tapped into a growing conviction that no one outside of the military should possess an assault firearm. No age is the right age to possess an AR-15. Moving the legal age from 18 to 21 is an empty solution. The part of the human brain that makes wise decisions and is capable of seeing future consequences from present actions is not fully developed until the mid-20s.

Restore ban on assault weapons

Recent passage by Congress of laws that will make our nation safer are to be applauded. Strengthening mental health access, safer gun storage, improved background checks and other measures will help. What is missing is a renewal of a federal ban on assault weapons. It was the law of the land from 1994 to 2004, and gun deaths decreased during that period. But the federal ban was allowed to expire. So for the past 18 years, millions more of these weapons have been produced and sold.


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It is a sad day when some lawmakers consider guns more precious than children, warned Jane Hurley, 95.

Pair a ban with buy-back program

Making our nation safer is in large part in the hands of our lawmakers. They have the authority to ban assault weapons. Such a ban, if it applies only to future sales and possession, however, fails to promise a safer community. Women with Walkers and their friends are calling for a ban on the sale and possession of assault weapons as well as a buy-back of such weapons. Rounding them up and giving them back to our military is the only sensible solution.

Banning such weapons can happen at the county and state levels, but banning is not enough. Mandatory buy-back programs enforced by severe penalties will remove these firearms from our homes and neighborhoods. Will ban and buy-back efforts stop mass killings? Nothing is guaranteed, but these measures will send the message that the gun industry is no longer in control.

— The Reverend John Forliti


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