DC’s mayor calls for federal action on guns at National Mall rally

At a National Mall rally organized by gun control advocates on Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser echoed the calls of Democrats from around the country for changes to the nation’s gun laws.

But she spoke from the perspective of mothers like her who worry and grieve, including D.C. moms whose children were killed by guns.

“Last week, I stood with a mom, her name was Crystal McNeal,” said Bowser, talking about the mother of 11-year-old Davon McNeal, who was shot and killed outside a barbecue on the Fourth of July in 2020. “Crystal has been through the unimaginable, but even through her grief, she continues to advocate for and work toward a future with fewer guns on our streets and more peace for our children.

“We owe it to Crystal, every mom, dad, child and grandma, every person in our country who carries with them every single day the trauma of gun violence,” added Bowser. “We owe it to them to pass common-sense gun reforms in our country.”

For Bowser, that means strengthening red flag laws and banning assault weapons such as the AR-15, which has become synonymous with mass shootings.

“We do have a right to bear arms, and it also separates us from every other country in the world that doesn’t have weekly or daily mass shootings,” Bowser said after her speech.

She said it’s possible to legally put some restrictions on the Second Amendment, “and I think that’s what’s been discussed here. … What the Congress are discussing right now are reasonable limits to our constitutional rights that just may save children.”

‘It becomes a norm’

Among those who stood behind the mayor while she spoke was Ward 8 resident Marcus Ellis, whose brother was shot and killed when Ellis was a freshman in high school.

“When you grow up in D.C., unfortunately, it becomes a norm to lose loved ones to gun violence, whether that be friends, cousins or brothers,” said Ellis, who is now chief of staff for the D.C. Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.

“What it does is it affects your education; it affects your travel because you don’t feel safe; it affects your family. It’s a broken family when a member, a sibling, is taken away at such a young age. The whole family becomes somewhat dismantled and you have to put those pieces back together.”

During and after her speech, the mayor also touched on the need for federal laws even though the city has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

“We’re very closely surrounded by neighboring states that have more liberal (gun) laws,” said Bowser. “We can make our own laws according to our own values and what we see on our streets and somebody can just cross a bridge and they’re in a whole different world. That’s why federal action is necessary.”

Ellis said he was inspired by the large crowd that gathered in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, many in the crowd carrying signs and screaming loudly. He also explained why he felt that even though similar rallies have been held before, he feels change eventually will come.

“We can sit on the sidelines and we can do nothing and we can give up. That’s an option for some — not for me, not for folks that have been impacted the way that I have,” said Ellis. “I think the people’s voices are the most powerful.

“These moms that are here today, there’s nothing like the voice of a mother who has lost a child,” said Ellis. “It’s the most powerful voice, to me, in this battle that we can have.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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