Sunday, May 14, 2000

Mother's Day

Best gift is a safe family

        That “Million Mom March” in Washington sounds scarier than cloning the Clintons. When I first heard about it, I imagined the worst.

        I pictured big protest signs that said, “Clean Your Room! Right Now!!”

        I imagined banners that shouted, “Make Mother's Day — Put Your Clothes Away!”

        I could hear a million moms chanting, “Wash Your Hands, Mow the Lawn, You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone.”

        The most powerful supercomputer on Earth could not calculate the guilt-inducing energy generated by a million moms in one place. If we could harness that much guilt, it would unleash enough raw power to unload all the dishwashers in America.

Stand up straight
        I wondered: What will a million moms demand? A national Chew With Your Mouth Closed Act? A tax on wadded-up socks in the laundry?

        There would be an agenda for dad reforms, a lot like the demands on children but less negotiable.

        Then I found out the whole thing was only about gun control — just a sophisticated stunt by gun-phobics, to politicize Mother's Day. There oughtta be background checks and waiting periods before giving marching permits to people like that.

        And moms who think outlawing guns will make their families safer should ask Debbie Hill.

Five years or life
        I tried to ask her, but she was busy shopping and having her hair done and sharing home-cooked meals with her family — routine stuff that is like paradise to someone who has just been set free after five years in prison.

        Mrs. Hill knows about guns and family safety. When she and her family were being stalked and terrorized by a former boyfriend, she was told by police to get a gun and learn to use it. She did.

        And one night when the stalker, Omar Pierson, confronted her on a dark country road, she shot and killed him.

        When I talked to her in prison, she said she would still do it, to protect herself and her family.

        And her father said prison hasn't changed her mind. “She was desperate,” said James Slemp. “He would not back off. He was a wild man. We're all convinced he would have killed her.”

        Given the same choice, most moms would make the same decision.

        It has been an agonizing five years. Mr. Pierson's bitter family opposed parole. A plea bargain to get out after a year mysteriously disappeared in Warren County's justice system. So Mrs. Hill served five years for carrying a concealed weapon — probably an Ohio record.

        Hundreds of letters were sent on her behalf, and yellow ribbons decorated fences and mailboxes in three counties surrounding her Maineville home.

        On Monday, the ribbons came down. Mrs. Hill came home to a house full of flowers — an early Mother's Day present to her, her son, Travis, and her mother, Charlotte Slemp.

        “It was such a glorious day,” Mrs. Slemp said. “I keep saying it's wonderful, but there's no other word for it.”

        The moral of the story is that a gun is sometimes the only chance a woman alone has against a violent man.

        Or as Shane said before he saved several families by blowing away the bad guys: “A gun is a tool, Ma'am, no worse than an ax or a shovel or any other tool. A gun is no better or no worse than the man using it.”

        Or woman.

        The Million Mom Marchers don't get that, but they don't know what moms want.

        Moms want their kids to sit up straight and eat their vegetables. And they want their families to be happy and safe — like Debbie Hill's family is now.

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. Call 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. E-mail: