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Moms take aim at violence.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Kate Wearn of Eugene, six months pregnant with her first child, may not be a mom quite yet, but that didn't get in the way of her giving the main speech at a Mother's Day event Sunday.

Wearn and about 200 other area residents participated in the seventh annual Million Mom March, which calls for an end to gun violence against children.

Wearn, referring to her unborn baby, told a crowd at the Eugene Water & Electric Board Plaza of her "firm conviction that this child, and indeed all children, have the right to grow up in an environment free from the threat of violence."

"I think that's the bottom line," she said. "We are all here because we care about children and about their future."

After listening to lively music from Hokoyo, a marimba band made up of young musicians, and a few short speeches, participants walked a mile along the Willamette River's South Bank Trail to the Owen Rose Garden.

As in years past, gun control advocates marched in tandem with peace activists eager to show their displeasure with the nation's foreign policy.

Lillian Darwin Lopez of Eugene held a sign that asked: "How can we celebrate while mothers and children die?"

She said she came to the march with her 8-year-old son, Sereno, because it seemed "hypocritical to celebrate motherhood while our country and our government is waging war on other mothers and children in Iraq."

Military veteran Jerry Smith attended the rally, holding an American flag and another flag with the word "Peace" written on it in white letters against a multicolored backdrop with orange and red stripes.

"I want them to be together," he explained.

"I'm just more hopeful than I have been in the past that this is the year that the war ends," said Smith, a retired social worker.

The Million Mom March started on Mother's Day 2000 after a New Jersey woman was inspired to action after reading about a gunman who randomly shot at a group of children in Granada Hills, Calif., in 1999, wounding five people.

A year later, the group merged with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, advocating for tougher gun laws through 75 chapters, including the one in Eugene and another in Portland.

Wearn was selected as the Eugene event's main speaker through her friendship with organizer Elizabeth Steffensen.

"Ordinary people, people like you and me, can make a difference" in curbing gun violence against children, Wearn said in her speech.

People should get involved in children's issues, talk to lawmakers and "vote in accordance with the vision you have for our children and their future," she said.

Parents must also be alert to their children being exposed to firearms, Wearn said.

"For Pete's sake, ask if there are guns in the home where your children play and visit," she said.

"And if so, that those guns are unloaded and stored safely."

CAPTION(S):

Marchers walk along the Willamette River in Eugene on Sunday as part of the annual Million Mom March. The gathering at the EWEB Plaza included music and speeches.
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Title Annotation:Family; The annual Million Mom March draws about 200 to Eugene to rally against gun violence and the war in Iraq
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 15, 2006
Words:520
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