For Falls Church resident and father Shaun Dakin, the decision to march in Saturday’s March on Washington for Gun Control was a natural one.
“I’m a longtime contributor to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and I am excited about the chance for real change around this important issue,” he said.
Dakin, who moved to Falls Church 12 years ago, grew up the son of parents who worked for Mobil Oil and has lived in various exotic locales around the world, including Great Britain and Africa.
“Growing up in Africa, some areas were very violent, but the numbers of gun deaths were nothing like here,” he said. “And in England, where the police did not even carry guns, the annual gun deaths were somewhere in the vicinity of 34 a year, as opposed to the U.S. where it is more like 30,000.”
Dakin is the founder and CEO of The National Political Do Not Contact Registry, where he has become one of the most recognized advocates for voter privacy rights in the nation, with over 200,000 members nationwide. In 2008, he testified at the U.S. Senate about political robocalls. That year, he also received the Mashable.com Open Web Award for the top nonprofit in the nation regarding social media.
Not surprisingly, he has volunteered to man the social media aspects of the grassroots, citizen-led March on Washington for Gun Control, which is made up of concerned parents, pastors, actors, gun-violence survivors, law enforcement officers, elected officials and the Indiana-based One Million Moms for Gun Control.
The march, which already has 3,000 confirmed marchers, plans to gather at 10 a.m. on Saturday, at the U.S. Capitol Reflecting Pool east of Third Street, NW, across from the National Museum of the American Indian. At 11 a.m., it will proceed along Constitution Avenue to the Washington Monument carrying hundreds of white signs, each bearing the name of a gun-violence victim.
Speakers will include U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.); Virginia Tech massacre survivor Colin Goddard; Shannon Watts, founder of One Million Moms for Gun Control; and Hollywood actress Kathleen Turner.
The program features speeches, as well as musical performances by Broadway and Washington actors.
The March is the brainchild of Washington Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith, American Indian activist Suzanne Blue Star Boy, and other local volunteer activists, including Dakin.
“I have been getting the word out through Facebook and we have had about 5,000 people join our cause there,” he said. “About 70 percent of those are women, which I think is great. I have found over the years that women are the ones who get things done in this country and the love of a mother for her child is a powerful force for good. If you want a cause to succeed, get women involved. The PTA can defeat the NRA.”
Dakin said some gun-rights activists have tried to shut down the March’s Facebook page by logging complaints to Facebook that the page is spam. “Facebook has an automatic algorithm that shuts a page down if it receives a certain number of spam complaints,” he said. “And these guys know that.”
Dakin said he was able to convince Facebook of what happened, and get the site back up.
“There is a culture of fear out there created by the NRA and the gun lobby,” he said. “Any talk of gun regulation seems to lead some gun owners to talk immediately of confiscation, arrests and ‘jack-booted government thugs’ whenever sensible legislation and regulation even comes up. But I think that right now, the majority of Americans have had enough of that reaction and want action to happen in terms of stricter gun regulation.”
The march hopes to bring attention to a list of key issues: reinstating and strengthening the federal ban on the sale of military-style assault rifles; banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines; requiring universal criminal and mental-health background checks for all firearm buyers; prohibiting sales of bullets that shatter inside the body, and requiring gun-safety training for all buyers of firearms.
“There is a groundswell of emotion around the massacre at Sandy Hook,” said Washington Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. “This March is an opportunity for people to express their grief, demand change and support the president’s plan. We are at the tipping point.”
Calls made to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam seeking comment on the march were not returned, but Mike Stollenwerk, founder of Fairfax County-based pro-gun group Opencarry.org, said some of the march’s goals are illogical.
“Serious regulations on fully-automatic weapons already exist,” he said. “I do not think most people realize that today the term ‘military-style assault rifles’ refers strictly to stylistic features like pistol grips that are added to low-caliber rifles--such as .22’s--to make them appear to be military weapons. No one has ever died because of a pistol grip.”
Stollenwerk also said ammunition that shatters inside the body, known as ‘frangible bullets’ are designed to disintegrate into tiny particles upon impact to minimize their penetration power--in a way making them safer than regular bullets. “Frangible bullets promote public safety by staying inside their target instead of harming innocent bystanders,” he said.
Dakin remains indefatigable about what he says is the need to strike for gun regulation while the iron is hot. “About 1,000 people have been killed with guns in the U.S. since Sandy Hook,” he said. “About 100 of those were children. “Hopefully this march will add to the cacophony of voices in the country that are all saying ‘enough is enough.’”
The original headline on this story misrepresented Saturday’s March on Washington for Gun Control event.