WASHINGTON – Protesters who say they favor “sensible gun laws” rallied in front of the White House on Monday demanding a change in assault weapon laws and to support President Barack Obama’s Jan. 5 speech on gun laws.
The group, We The People For Sensible Gun Laws, is asking Congress, state and local officials to require background checks when people buy guns, gun safety training and a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban.
Some protesters have personal reasons for participating.
“I protest every Monday for my nephew,” David Colbert, 65, a member of We The People For Sensible Gun Laws, said. Colbert is an international environmental consultant and a retired environment officer at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Two years ago, Colbert lost his 28-year-old nephew, who suffered from depression and drug abuse problems, to suicide when he shot himself with his father’s gun.
“I was protesting even before this happened, but two years ago it hit my family directly,” Colbert said. “So it really brought home the fact that guns are too readily available in this country. We have to put some reasonable restrictions in place.”
Colbert and about 15 other protesters stand in front of the White House every Monday to rally for what they call “sensible gun laws.”
Hal Ponder, 74, a yoga instructor at Chevy Chase retirement home in Washington and a member of the group, said his daughter’s best friend, Ryan Martin, then 12, was paralyzed in 1987 after being shot in the spine in Washington.
“Ryan was caught in a crossfire. He was just coming home with his family from a movie,” Ponder said. “From that point on he was in a wheelchair, but that didn’t stop him. He went on to play tennis in the Special Olympics and became a medical doctor.”
During the protest, people roaming in front of the White House stopped to ask questions about the group’s message. Some debated with the protesters.
“We just have to stop the violence,” Ponder told one man.
Both Ponder and Colbert eagerly shared what the group stood for as people stopped to read their signs.
Ponder and Colbert said more needs to be done so people won’t have to go through the pain their families suffered.
“We have to keep people safe, keep vulnerable people like my nephew safe,” Colbert said. “My sister may never get over it. She’s still very, very fragile.”
In his speech to an audience that included survivors of mass shootings and relatives of those who died, Obama said he would expand the requirements for background checks to sales at gun shows and online dealers. He said the administration would hire more federal agents to do those checks.
Colbert said he likes what Obama is doing with the gun laws, but he doesn’t like the fact it took him so long to do it.
“I think he could go further in what he’s doing, so we’ll see if he can do more,” Colbert said.
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