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What happened to Million Mom chapter?

Merged with CeaseFire PA, members are looking to close 'gun-show loophole' and want impact on elections

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

By Linda Wilson Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A Mt. Lebanon meeting called by the executive director of CeaseFire PA was billed as an update on efforts to prevent gun violence in Pennsylvania communities.

But it got sidetracked some by two of 19 attendees who asked questions about and raised issues with Bryan Miller concerning what happened to their group.

"How did it happen that the Million Mom March in Allegheny County ceased to exist?" said Michelle Dreyfuss of Mt. Lebanon, who had been co-president of that chapter. "Without our votes, without our consent, the chapter ceased to exist. People paid memberships. What happened to our dues?"

She referred to 90 people, mostly moms and most of them from Mt. Lebanon, who had ridden in two buses from the South Hills to Washington, D.C., to join 750,000 participants on Mother's Day 2000.

That march grew from the Million Mom March, formed in 1999 by mothers from all over the United States to protest and fight the carnage caused by guns, including the horror of classmates killing classmates at Columbine High School in Colorado.

About two months ago, local MMM members received e-mails stating that CeaseFire PA, a Philadelphia-based group, was taking over the chapter, said Nathaniel Glosser of Highland Park, who attended Thursday's meeting at Southminster Presbyterian Church.

Before that meeting, he sent out e-mail messages to former MMM members, saying in the message field, "Our MMM Chapter Has been Hijacked."

Glosser referred to the Oct. 1, 2001, merger of MMM with another high-profile group to form the Brady Campaign United with the Million Moms March.

"Your money is with the Brady campaign," Miller said in answer to Dreyfuss' question about dues.

"Million Mom March is a great name and I do not want to see it disappear," said Glosser, who is also president of the Rosenberg Institute for Peace & Justice, which works in partnership with Pennsylvanians Against Handgun Violence.

"The million moms did not show up [for Thursday's meeting] because there is no Million Moms March," he told a reporter.

"We were the Million Mom March of Pennsylvania," Miller said, adding, "After the march, the level of enthusiasm declined."

Jeanine Smolerek of Mt. Lebanon, interim president of the local chapter of CeaseFire PA told Glosser that gun violence "is a big problem and there is room at the table for everyone. There is no reason there cannot be both [groups]."

Miller identified himself as a former businessman who "traveled the world for 20 years selling American products" before going to work full-time with CeaseFire PA.

"People -- and the media -- believe that people in Pennsylvania are pro-gun," he said. But he disagreed, saying. "More people in Pennsylvania are very interested in reducing gun violence."

Nevertheless, Ed Rendell's overwhelming victory in the Democratic gubernatorial primary was a defeat for the gun lobby, which supported Bob Casey, Miller said.

He said his entire family became involved in antigun-violence campaigns after his brother, FBI agent Mike Miller, was killed in November 1994 in a Washington, D.C., police station. Two other law enforcement officers, including his partner, Mt. Lebanon native Martha Dixon Martinez, and the gunman were also killed.

The goals of CeaseFire PA include closing the so-called "gun show loophole," which allows unlicensed dealers -- sometimes called private collectors -- to sell firearms at gun shows without a background check.

"We are looking for two or three districts where we can affect the outcome of an election," Miller said. "We are looking for districts where there is a mismatch" of voters and their elected representative.

In other words, CeaseFire is looking for a district where a majority of voters who favor some form of gun control are represented by a politician who is opposed to gun control.

Former County Councilman Mike Crossey, who attended Thursday's meeting as a candidate in the 42nd Legislative District, said in a position statement that his gun-safety platform includes mandatory child-safety locks with all gun sales, a ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to persons under 21 and required registration of sales for people who buy more than one gun a month.

"My gun-safety proposals do not restrict or hamper hunters, sportsmen or collectors in any manner," his statement says.

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