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Northampton gathering calls for gun law changes

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight & Morning Star (Moonlight Davis, L and Morning Star Chenven, R) perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Moonlight & Morning Star (Moonlight Davis, L and Morning Star Chenven, R) perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight & Morning Star (Moonlight Davis, L and Morning Star Chenven, R) perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Moonlight & Morning Star (Moonlight Davis, L and Morning Star Chenven, R) perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight Davis performs at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Moonlight Davis performs at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight Davis performs at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

    JOSH KUCKENS
    Moonlight Davis performs at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Purchase photo reprints »

  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight & Morning Star (Moonlight Davis, L and Morning Star Chenven, R) perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight & Morning Star (Moonlight Davis, L and Morning Star Chenven, R) perform at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight Davis performs at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.
  • JOSH KUCKENS<br/>Moonlight Davis performs at the Edwards Church in Northampton Friday for "Transforming Sorrow into Action," a community gathering of solidarity, support, and song for the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

NORTHAMPTON — “If we don’t get serious changes in our gun laws on a federal level now, we will never get them,” said state Rep. Ellen Story, D-Amherst. “Assault rifles are not guns, they are weapons of mass destruction.”

Story joined about 75 others Friday morning at Edwards Church of Northampton to remember the victims of last week’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were gunned down by a lone intruder.

The group gathered to remember, to console each other, express outrage at the level of violence exhibited last Friday — and to call for change to the country’s gun policies.

“We feel rage that our political leaders have been so impotent in the face of pressure from the National Rifle Association,” Story said while addressing the crowd. “It is not to be tolerated anymore.”

“There is no excuse for anyone who is a civilian to have an assault weapon,” Story said.

Story said the exposure of the shooting and the ages of most of the victims, and the underlying issues it brings up about failures in gun policy and mental health care in the U.S., provides a needed platform to have a nationwide discussion in the hopes of preventing future tragedies.

“Mental health costs money, and we don’t want to pay for it,” Story said. “We have to pay for it. We have to do better than we are doing now.”

Rabbi Nancy Flam said the Newtown attacks brought “shock, cold horror, deep sadness and bright outrage” in their wake, but also awakened the “fierce, ferocious love of the mother who comes to protect,” and hoped a renewed call to strengthen gun laws would help put a stop to a nationwide “idolatry of gun worship.”

Flam said the excuse of not changing existing gun laws because doing so wouldn’t prevent all future gun violence doesn’t carry any weight.

“To save one life is to save an entire world,” she said.

Liz Friedman, program director of MotherWoman, a Hadley nonprofit that organized the event, said it wasn’t just an opportunity to try and encourage gun law changes, but a chance to express collective grief and, perhaps, by doing so, relieve some of the burden from those directly affected by the violence in Newtown.

“Grief turned inwardly isolates us,” she said.

Marianne Winters, executive director of Safe Passage, an anti-domestic violence agency, said such gatherings can have a therapeutic effect.

“When hope is in short supply, we have to come together,” she said.

The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian led the group in a brief prayer in which she asked for “the gentleness to be healers and the wisdom to be counselors.”

Those present filled out copies of letters to President Obama and Massachusetts legislators demanding a plan to end gun violence in the U.S.

“What we need from our nation’s leaders is more than just a moment of silence, we need a moment of courage,” part of the letter reads.

“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare to lose a child,” said Liz Bigwood of Northampton. “To lose a child in a violent way is probably the worst imaginable.”

Bigwood said she felt compelled to attend not only to help assuage her own grief, but to support the families of the lost children in any way she could.

“It’s a sense of feeling we are a community and it’s OK to cry and to come together,” Bigwood said. “It’s the most natural thing in the world to need to be with other mothers.”

Bigwood said she is preparing to travel to Africa to visit her daughter, who is serving with the Peace Corps in Senegal and whom she hasn’t seen for about 10 months.

“I’ve felt lately that I’ve wanted to hug her so intensely,” Bigwood said.

The 90-minute ceremony also featured music from local women’s choir Wings, singer-songwriter Nerissa Nields and vocalist Moonlight Daniels.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com .

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