Moms march in Vail in support of gun reform Sunday, a day after six mass shootings occurred in the US
About 80 people gathered in Vail Village on Sunday to march the streets and speak out in support of gun reform.
The demonstration was one of many taking place across the country over the weekend, as Moms Demand Action groups organized around the Mother’s Day holiday in an effort to urge Congress to act on gun reform.
Cynthia Pillsbury, a local mother of three, helped organize the event and spoke to the crowd about solutions to gun violence.
“First off, we need to immediately stop the production of new assault weapons, and ensure that the assault weapons that are out there are stored properly,” Pillsbury said. “We need to strengthen our background check system to keep firearms out of dangerous hands in the first place, and laws to disarm domestic abusers.”
Pillsbury saluted Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado legislature for the recent expansion of Colorado’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Petition legislation, otherwise known as “red flag laws,” which now allow licensed medical care providers, licensed mental health care providers, licensed educators, and district attorneys to petition for an extreme risk protection order against individuals, requiring them to surrender their firearms.
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Pillsbury said “implementing red flag laws in states that have them, and encouraging the states that do not have red flag laws to enact them to keep guns out of the hands of people who are a threat to themselves and others,” should be among the solutions considered by those who seek to end gun violence in the United States.
Pillsbury referenced the recent mass shooting in Louisville, Kentucky, in which bank employee Connor Sturgeon is reported to have left a manifesto detailing his motives, saying he wanted to kill himself, he wanted to prove how easy it was to buy a gun in Kentucky and he wanted to highlight a mental health crisis in America.
“We know (red flags laws) save lives, and it would have saved lives at the shooting in the bank in Kentucky,” Pillsbury said.
A group of Vail Mountain School students attended the event, including Pillsbury’s daughter Serena Pillsbury — a member of Students Demand Action, a spin-off of Moms Demand Action — who was marching as part of her senior project.
“Nationwide, there’s a lot of these marches going on, but there was nothing in Vail, so my mom and I came together to do something,” she said. “Most of the American population believes in sensible gun laws, and I think people don’t realize that.”
Serena Pillsbury’s senior project took a simple concept, empathy, and traced how it could affect a more complex issue like gun violence. She conducted interviews with staffers from the offices of Sen. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse, along with a founding member of the National Rifle Association, and sought the help of former Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger as an expert adviser. She also produced a song, “We’ve Got To Take A Stand,” currently streaming on SoundCloud, as part of the project.
“My hope for this song is to instill empathy in others and raise awareness for gun violence in this country,” she said.
Serena’s sister, 13-year-old Milly Pillsbury, also attended with her friends, seventh graders Lily Novak and Ziva Seller.
But it wasn’t just moms and kids in attendance. Dan Pennington said he wanted to get involved due to “the inactivity of our lawmakers to do anything that is reasonable to make a dent in the violence that we have for our children and our communities.
“Also, I want to support Cynthia and the other moms that are in the group that are doing this locally, and the least I can do is come out and march around Vail and draw some attention to what’s happening,” he added.
Douglas Smith, the assistant secretary for the private sector at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from October 2009 to November 2013, also attended. Smith was on scene at Sandy Hook the day after the deadly shooting, where 20 children ages 6-7 were killed.
“This is a pretty sensitive subject for me,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of it.”
Smith, himself a father, now lives in Eagle County and volunteers at local schools, working on active shooter drills.
Smith said he wanted to get involved because he’s “sick and tired of the fake narrative of the NRA.”
He said the statistics regarding mass shootings in the U.S. are staggering.
The number of mass shootings — defined by four more people shot in a single event at the same general time and location, not including the shooter — has continued to rise in the U.S. in recent years, with 221 occurring already in 2023, compared to 273 total in 2014, and 336 in 2015, according to the data collection site GunViolenceArchive.org.
On Saturday, there were six mass shootings in the U.S., including a shooting that left two people dead and five others injured in Yuma, Arizona, and a shooting that left two people dead and three others injured in Augusta, Georgia.
In 2020, there were 610 mass shootings in the U.S., followed by 646 in 2021 and 690 in 2022.
Smith described the uptick as “ridiculously depressing” and said the narratives surrounding gun ownership are part of the problem.
“The second amendment, for 100 years, has been misquoted,” he said. “It’s about a militia managed by Congress. It’s not your individual militia, it’s a state-sponsored militia.”