MIA and POW activist Pam Peterson speaks at a Mom's Demand Action

MIA and POW activist Pam Peterson speaks at a Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America meeting Aug. 26.

Maryville’s Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America chapter discussed gun violence and current gun legislation in Missouri and across the United States with a guest speaker Aug. 26.

MDA invited longtime civil rights, military prisoner of war and missing in action activist Pam Peterson to speak to the group about her views on gun violence, gun control, gun legislation and her experience with activism.

Peterson was motivated to become an activist after her husband returned from fighting in the Vietnam War but so many other people’s family members didn’t. Peterson said she felt as if the government wasn’t doing enough to find and extract those soldiers who had gone missing in action or were captured as prisoners of war.

Peterson joined MDA about a year ago in reaction to all of the mass shootings happening around the country. She wants all children to be and feel safe in school and the community.

“With all the shootings that are going on now and all these little kids that are doing these shooter drills in preschool and in kindergarten and grammar school, and then you go to a Walmart and these kids see somebody with a military-grade weapon and ammunition hanging off their belt, that’s got to cause a lot of nightmares,” Peterson said.

Peterson said her activism and time allowed her to grow from a timid, quiet person to one who is confident expressing her views without remorse or fear of judgment.

“It’s a shame that some people really have walked away from me because they liked who I was when I didn’t say anything,” Peterson said. “The thing is, though, is that life’s too short and things are happening and you have to take a stand.”

Jill Baker, a senior instructor at Northwest, MDA member and mother of three, said at the meeting she has also grown to become more outspoken in her advocacy, but acknowledges the difficulty in doing so.

“There is that moment in our community and in the way that things are knit together you feel so frequently like you have to live your advocacy in the shadows because you’re not sure how that will impact larger things,” Baker said.

After the meeting, members were encouraged to fill out letters to be sent to Missouri senators asking them to pass legislation for background checks on all gun sales.

MDA was started shortly after the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012. MDA’s purpose is to fight for stronger gun laws to decrease gun violence in the country. There are MDA chapters in every state and the movement has nearly six million supporters.

Jessica Piper, a Maryville High School teacher and mother of five, started the Maryville chapter of MDA last year, but has been a part of MDA for much longer. She said that she wants the group and their message to be taken seriously.

“Prayers are great too and thoughts are fantastic, but we believe in action,” Piper said.

MDA member and Northwest associate professor Jenni Wall said the group is non-partisan and open to everyone.

“Moms Demand Action was started by a mom who was ready for a change and reduction in gun violence. However, it is open to anyone who is interested in reducing gun violence ‒ gun owners, non-gun owners. Moms, non-moms. Females, non-females. Everyone is welcome.”

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