Washington (CNSNews.com) - It was business as usual in the nation's capital on Sunday despite the presence of the anti-gun Million Mom March, which drew only 2,000 people, a fraction of the number expected to attend.
The rally was billed as the kickoff to the "Halt the Assault" tour, a nationwide campaign to renew the so-called "assault weapons" ban, which expires in September.
The Million Mom March, which merged with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2001, had expected as many as 5,000 people at its Capitol Hill gathering. About 2,000 attended, according to the Associated Press.
As the event got under way Sunday, the crowd was more likely in the hundreds rather than the thousands. It was nowhere near the 500,000-750,000 people who reportedly attended the first anti-gun rally on Mother's Day in 2000.
Several blocks away, several hundred supporters of the Second Amendment Sisters gathered for their own rally. Speakers stressed the need to guard their Second Amendment rights, especially during an election year.
The race between President Bush and presumptive Democrat nominee John Kerry was a topic at both events. Volunteers from the Kerry campaign canvassed the Million Mom March looking for supporters. Many attendees donned "Women for Kerry" stickers.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was one of several political figures to attend the event. His address touched on anti-war themes and the need to dump Bush, in addition to restricting gun use.
"In four years since we first met here, we've lost 120,000 lives, more than 500,000 injured, at the cost of $100 billion. It's time to change the policy, and down the street change the leadership. It's time for a change," he said to a roaring ovation.
At the Second Amendment Sisters rally, those figures and others from the anti-gun crowd were questioned. The event's featured speaker, Shemane Nugent, wife of rock musician Ted Nugent, said many of the anti-gun activists simply don't understand the issues.
"A lot of the women at the Million Mom March don't really want all guns to be banned," Nugent told CNSNews.com. "They just are misguided."
"I probably would have been a member of the Million Mom March," she added, "because it is an emotional issue and nobody wants more violence. But the only way you can see the truth is to experience it. We need to reach out to these people ... we've got to go talk to them."
The gun-rights rally featured Nugent, as well as Miss New Mexico Junior Teen Sarah Rouse, Congress of Racial Equality national spokesman Niger Innis, the Rev. Joyce Smith and Coalition for a Fair Judiciary President Kay Daly among other speakers.
Meanwhile, the Million Mom March touted politicians, celebrities and crime victims. After the rally, the contingent marched through the streets of Washington to the White House.
Missing from the rally was Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), who with her husband, then-President Bill Clinton, played a role in the 2000 event. Calls to Clinton's office weren't returned.
While organizers of the Million Mom March said the crowd numbers alone shouldn't be used to judge the importance of their campaign, critics thought otherwise.
John Michael Snyder, public affairs director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said voters sent politicians a strong message after Congress enacted the 1994 ban on semi-automatic firearms. He said that has played a role in the debate.
"When the Democratic party in congressional elections later that year lost control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first times in 60 years, President Clinton, the most anti-gun chief executive in the history of the United States, admitted publicly that enactment of the ban was one of the major reasons for the astounding political defeat."
See Earlier Story:
Million Mom March Hoping to Draw 5,000 to Washington (May 7, 2004)
E-mail a news tip to Robert B. Bluey.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.