There was a sea of red on the floor of the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda Wednesday morning. It seemed not a single member of the Moms Demand Action gun control movement had forgotten their crimson T-shirts.
There were volunteers with clipboards checking people in, and more passing out handmade posters that read “No more silence, end gun violence” and “Schools are for learning, not lockdowns.”
As Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan took the podium, she gave them a friendly greeting: “Welcome to your house.”
The moms should feel well enough at home by now. They’ve been rallying, writing, meeting with legislators, and recruiting voters for over a year, with the same demands: stronger background checks and red flag laws to prevent guns from making their way into the hands of people who may use them to hurt themselves or others.
It’s been a year since a mass shooting at Parkland High School in Florida. This gathering was all about reminding Minnesota’s legislators just who had their hands on the reins. These moms have flexed their political power before, and they’re more than willing to do it again.
“Last spring, we said that if [representatives] didn’t enact common sense legislation, then we would replace them with leaders who will,” organizer Erin Zamoff told the crowd. “And that is just what happened.”
The Rotunda erupted with cheers and applause. Flanagan – one of the many government officials who spoke during the rally -- admitted that their thunderous racket made it difficult to concentrate on anything else. Reps. Dave Pinto and Ruth Richardson, along with Senators Jeff Hayden and Ron Latz – offered their support as well.
Background check and red flag bills have already passed two committees in the House. If they're eventually approved by the full House, they make their way to the Republican-controlled Senate, where things get interesting. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka of Nisswa has already vowed that the bills will go no further in his chamber.
But if the moms believed the writing was on the wall, it was for Gazelka, not gun control. Said Latz of the majority leader: “If the Senate had been up for election in November, he would not be here right now.”
“I think the tide has really turned,” Zamoff says. Just a few years ago, organizers like her were on the defense, trying to prevent things like looser permit to carry laws. Now they're playing offense, promising they'll vote in droves. If this vote doesn’t go their way, their senators will be hearing from them.
“We are not going away,” Zamoff promised.