HYANNIS – Amidst the honking horns and the thumbs up received by a dozen Cape Cod Grandmothers Against Gun Violence, who held signs on Monday at the Airport Rotary, one angry-faced man shouted out his window, “I’ll keep my AK47 forever, you Grandma sacks of shit!”
The grandmothers laughed and asked a reporter, “Did you hear that? Make sure you quote him right.”
What else can you do but laugh in the face of fleeing anger when you are trying to promote a reasonable dialogue with the sole goal of saving lives? For two hours, on the 14th of every month, ever since the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012, Grandmothers Against Gun Violence have held a sign-carrying vigil at the Airport Rotary.
The group was started by Linda Alhart of Cummaquid, who was moved to action by the horror of that day.
On the morning of the Newton shooting, said Alhart, she had attended a Christmas show at her grandson, Colton’s elementary school off Cape. On the way home, she heard of the shooting and was instantly struck by how her happy day “was such a contrast to what had happened that very morning. We had come from singing and songs, and now the news was all about that massacre at that school.”
As she and her husband, Don, drove home from Colton’s school, Alhart turned to her husband and said, “I think my life is going to change.” She later explained, “I was galvanized to do something.”
At first, she said she felt lucky the shooting didn’t happen at her grandson’s school, and then, she said, she realized that “Lucky shouldn’t mean that you weren’t killed in a school setting.”
So she did the only thing she could think of, she wrote a letter to the editor of the Cape Cod Times. “I said, let’s band together as grandmothers.”
She heard from 20 other grandmothers “who felt the same way,” she said. They held a an initial meeting at her house, and then more meetings eventually to a library when there were too many people for her house. They invited speakers, including state senator Dan Wolfe, state representative Sarah Peake, and a member of the NRA.
Their mission statement says that Cape Cod Grandmothers Against Gun Violence aims to “to influence public policy and create an America free from gun violence.”
“I like the idea that maybe we can do something,” said Martha Guzikowski of East Sandwich.
“All of this,” said Pat Hatch of Cotuit, “is to keep this issue alive.”
They stand at the rotary once a month, reminding commuters for a few seconds at least that, in the words of Donna Hannigan of Dennis, “as they come out of the rotary they remember, oh yeah, there’s gun violence in our society. It’s visibility. People forget about Sandy Hook.”
These grandmothers have not forgotten. Hatch, who has been a member since the first meeting, said, “All I saw were 20 5 or 6-year-olds killed. I couldn’t put that image out of my eyes.”
Though none of the grandmothers at the vigil were directly affected by gun violence, they said they fear for the world their grandchildren are growing up in.
They stressed that they wanted to work with legal gun owners, and that they were most concerned with strengthening background checks, getting illegal guns off the street, and prosecuting gun crimes.
“We’re not against guns,” said Alhart. “We’re not against the Second Amendment. We’re against gun violence.”
Cape Cod Grandmothers Against Gun Violence is a participating organization in the Mass. Coalition Against Gun Violence. Alhart hopes to grow the organization into a nationwide force along the lines of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
— Brian Tarcy