Gun-control advocates are about to see whether their issue really deserves the label "movement." This Sunday, Mother's Day, women from around the country will gather in Washington and other cities to proclaim the need for stronger gun laws.
If it attracts crowds of the size hoped for, the "Million Mom March" could mark a turning point in the long campaign to curb the easy availability of firearms in America. The sight of so many highly motivated women, many from politically crucial suburbs, will doubtless capture the attention of lawmakers and presidential candidates. Many of these women represent key swing votes.
But the task facing the march organizers is far from simple. While their event could speed gun control in Congress and in many states, the other side is hardly fading away.
Pro-gun ownership women - calling themselves "Second Amendment Sisters" - plan their own rallies on the same day as a counterpoint.
And the gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, is probably as politically potent, organizationally agile, and well funded as ever.
Will the antigun marchers be able to turn their Mother's Day rally into something as sustainable and as politically potent as the NRA? Their legislative goals include measures, such as licensing and registration of firearms, that are admirable, but reach beyond what's considered politically possible at present.
The "Moms" will have to gear up to counter the sometimes reasonable-sounding arguments the gun lobby will put in their path: Is the "real" problem that current gun laws aren't enforced? Is widespread gun ownership a deterrent to violent crime? Do gun locks and other safety measures give criminal attackers the edge?
Those questions, and others, can be answered in ways that affirm the need for tougher, and imminently reasonable, gun-control laws at the national and state levels. The 73 percent of American women shown by polls to already favor such laws is a strong base to build on.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society