Sunday, May 14, 2000

Shy Covington mother speaks up in D.C. today

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Rene Thompson has not lost anyone to gun violence, nor has she been a victim herself.

(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        But last Labor Day weekend, the 38-year-old Covington mother decided it was time to take a stand.

        Inspired by a New Jersey mother's televised plea to join a national movement against gun violence, Mrs. Thompson found herself writing and editing speeches, contributing to a national Web site, and coordinating a Kentucky rally to call for sensible gun laws.

        Today, Mrs. Thompson will join women from across the country as they express their outrage against gun violence through the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C.

        As a state coordinator of the movement, the un- assuming woman who had never organized anything bigger than a trip to the pediatrician will begin this Mother's Day by being among a group of women meeting with President Clinton at the White House.

        “When you become a mother, you better become an activist, so that the world will be a better place for your child,” Mrs. Thompson said last week, as her 3-year-old son, David, vied for her attention. “When my son grows up, I can say, "I was willing to fight for you, and I will always be willing to fight for you.'”

        Nine months ago, Mrs. Thompson had such a fear of social situations that she avoided the malls during Christmas, and she dreaded talking to strangers on the phone.

Million Mom March coverage from Associated Press
        The catalyst for her transformation from shy homemaker to national activist was an early morning talk show interview with Donna Dees-Thomases last Labor Day weekend.

        “She was a stay-at-home mom who'd never done anything like this in her life,” said Mrs. Thompson's husband, Steven, 41. “I heard this interview, and said, "Here's something you can get behind.' I'm just so proud of her and everything she's accomplished.”

        As Ms. Dees-Thomases, a New Jersey mother of two, described terrorized preschool children being led away from a shooting at a California community center, the mother in Covington's Peaselburg neighborhood could relate to her outrage.

        “I understood everything she was saying — the helplessness, the fear,” Mrs. Thompson said. “I called Donna that day and said, "What can I do?'”

        A letter to the editor soon led to a speech-writing assignment, which led to a request to create a national ad. Before she knew it, Mrs. Thompson was organizing a Mother's Day rally in Louisville.

        The rally, from 3 to 5 p.m. today in Louisville's Waterfront Park, will include speakers, choirs and a ceremony that includes placing children's shoes in a line to mark how many Kentucky youths have died from gun violence in the past year.

        Nationally, a dozen children die each day from gunshot wounds, and 38 are wounded, Mrs. Thompson said.

        “We have absolutely no problem with law-abiding citizens having a gun,” she said. “That is their right, but with a right comes responsibility. We have to have protections in place. If we don't protect our youngest citizens, what good is our society?”

        The Million Mom movement calls for extensive background checks on people who want to buy guns to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of criminals, juveniles or the mentally ill, Mrs. Thompson said.

        The group's mission also calls for safety locks for all handguns, limiting purchases to one handgun a month, stricter enforcement of existing gun laws, and help from corporate America in getting across the message that letting guns fall into the wrong hands is unacceptable.

        “We don't have to sit back any more and say, "When are they going to do something about this problem?” Mrs. Thompson said. “We are the ones who have the power to bring about change. This is our generation's civil rights movement.”


- Shy Covington mother speaks up in D.C. today
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