Washington — Several thousand people, most of them women, gathered Sunday on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the largest gun-control demonstration in four years, a loud and calculated effort aimed at forcing President Bush to renew the soon-to-expire federal ban on assault weapons.
The rally lacked the star power, and certainly the numbers, of the first Million Mom March in 2000, when hundreds of thousands of women flooded the Mall on Mother's Day. Organizers this time put the crowd at close to 3,000.
But the smaller turnout was expected, organizers said, and was sufficient to kick off a nationwide campaign aimed at renewing the ban before it expires Sept.13. The moms, who have joined with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, hope public pressure will force Bush to stand by campaign pledges supporting the extension of the popular ban.
"We are laser-beam focused on this," said Donna Dees-Thomases, who came up with the idea for the 2000 march. "That's what he said he was going to do, and that's what we're going to hold him to."
Some said the rally, which included calls for broader gun control measures, had a special resonance, coming just a week after a stray bullet struck and killed Chelsea Cromartie, 8, in her aunt's home in the District of Columbia. The District has seen a surge in homicides of children, with 13 slain this year.
The day began with an interfaith service and then yielded to several hours of speakers. Jesse Jackson was on hand, as were a smattering of members of Congress and seemingly hundreds of people whose lives had been directly touched by gun violence.
Jackson drew the crowd to its feet, booming out a line that became an instant slogan: "We will remember, in November."