No one ever believes that massive tragedy can happen right in their own town or state, until it actually happens. The devastating mass shooting at Umpqua Community College on October 1st has ignited the gun control debate once again. Shortly after the shootings, President Barack Obama stated,
Each time this happens I’m going to bring this up. Each time this happens I am going to say that we can actually do something about it, but we’re going to have to change our laws. And this is not something I can do by myself. I’ve got to have a Congress and I’ve got to have state legislatures and governors who are willing to work with me on this.
Well, one mother of two young boys and lifetime local Portland entrepreneur heard that call and is fed and ready to stand up and do something.
Sarah Shaoul, a Portland resident and owner of the well-known children’s boutique Black Wagon in North East Portland has worked as a consultant and small business advocate sitting on various councils and organizations informing government and individuals about building strong locally owned and operated businesses. Her passion for small business, customer service and family has brought her to a new endeavor that she hopes will change the conversation and push legislators to build a strong gun-control reform and keep children safe.
I sat down with Sarah to discuss her new organization “Mothers Against Mass Shootings” (MAMM) to learn more about their purpose and how they see themselves making a difference in Oregon and across the country.
Why now? There have been a few other mass shootings in our state. What led you to start Mothers Against Mass Shootings?
When the Sandy Hook shootings occurred, like so many, I was stunned and outraged. And like so many, I was absolutely assured that our elected officials could not and would not accept the status quo. Surely, in the aftermath of the slaughter of so many innocent and young babes we would see a significant change in the way our nation manages the safety of our children and gun control reforms. We trusted that things would change and were in complete disbelief that the loss of such young and precious lives did not change anything. This time, I decided that I had to do something! I just couldn’t stand by any longer and accept that things will never change. Motivated by President Obamas speech following the Roseburg, OR shootings and thinking about the successful efforts of MADD, Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers, I set out to make a real difference, make an lasting impression, thru sheer numbers of people.
What is different about this organization than any of the other organizations that currently exist?
There are several great organizations that I will mention here: Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Both do great work on a national level to educate, inform and advocate for gun safety and gun reform. I set out to create Moms Against Mass Shootings with the idea that our numbers must be seen visually. The plan is to organize individuals to come together and make a presence, be seen and heard at State Capitols around the country, starting with our own state capitol, Salem and building up to a Million Mom March on Washington DC. We also want to engage the electorate to make this next election a single issue election. We want to engage and motivate individuals to make this the deciding factor in who we elect as our next leaders.
Are you against the 2nd Amendment and individual’s rights to bear arms?
I was never against the 2nd Amendment and individual’s rights to bear arms. I grew up with guns in our home. My father was and still is an avid hunter. But like everything, with that right comes responsibility. My father encouraged us to learn all we could about guns, but insisted that we take gun safety courses before we could handle any guns. Frankly, I was never interested in guns, but respected it as my father’s interest. Its worth mentioning that my father, an avid hunter who owns many guns, has shared his disgust with NRA and has long since cancelled his membership.
The gun lobby, gun enthusiasts, etc… have had their way for far too long and its time for a different approach. I think that if the gun lobby and gun collectors and enthusiasts had been working toward a responsible solution the past 5+ years, then there would be some understanding of their concern. But no more. If gun owners want to enjoy their liberty and right to own guns they should have gotten on board with some solutions. Its time for the rest of us, not just mothers, to say “enough is enough.” You had your chance. You don’t get to keep your guns without having to adhere to smart and effective regulation. Time for us to come up with a solution and its not arming teachers and handing a gun to everyone as they enter a movie theater. The absurdity of it all! The time is NOW to imply strict regulations.
Young people get killed every day on the streets of Chicago, Boston, LA, and Detroit. Why, is it so important for people to stand up now against mass murders?
We’re talking about different issues. Young people dying of gun related homicide is a huge socio economic problem. We definitely need to invest more in our youth and successful programs addressed for at risk youth. Mass murders are often middle class, suburban crimes of seriously mentally ill youth. Their issues are more mental health. Effective gun control regulation will address both types of crimes. It saddens me to know that so many young people are getting killed and yes, we often don’t hear about it. We must do away with so called “Stand Your Ground Laws!” So many of these open carry and stand your ground enthusiasts make dangerous and racially motivated assumptions. Do we really want these people to have guns? Every mother feels to the core the horror of a child being randomly targeted at their school, which should be the safest place for a child. That’s why I think Moms everywhere, and not just moms, are outraged and demand a change to the status quo on guns. Strict gun regulation must happen to address both kinds of unnecessary deaths. Any solution will be multi-tiered and must involve, better access to opportunity, better access to health care.
A lot of organizations start in the shadow of crisis. What is the long term goals of your organization? How will your organization make added change?
Great question! We’re going to have to be flexible and go with what works and adapt as we go along.
What do you want people to know your organization and how can people help you reach your mission/goals?
This has come together very quickly and right now we’re working to maintain the momentum, grow our members and to keep people energized and fighting for the important goal of keeping our communities and our children safe! We are definitely needing volunteers and positive, constructive attitudes. It’s ok to be angry, but we have to stay smart, focused and strategic.
Are there any upcoming events or planning of events?
We are currently focused on meetings with our congressional delegation both at the State and National level and learning what has worked and what has yet to be tried.
We want to let our legislators know that we plan to make this next election a single issue election and that we have plans to march, so they can prepare to work with us. Some say, “they won’t see what hit them.” I say, “let them see us coming!” Let them prepare to work with us! They can no longer bury their heads in the sand on this issue! Please be patient as our group is so young, less than a week old and we are working 24/7 to organize and hope to have our first march before the end of November.
Learn more about Mothers Against Mass Shootings