Fremont gets a jump start on planned national gun reform rallies

Gun reform rallies are planned across the nation the weekend of Aug. 17-18, to keep pressure on members of Congress while they are home in their districts.

More than 100 "Recess Rallies" are scheduled in all 50 states.

"What I want to say to the Senate and Mitch McConnell is, 'Do your job and pass a law,' " said Bridget McShea, at a rally in Fremont Friday evening.

Since Fremont has its annual Festival of India Saturday and Sunday on Paseo Padre Parkway, gun activists held their event a day early.

They want lawmakers to return and begin work on gun legislation, worried that momentum subsides as time passes.

Congress is scheduled to come back Sept. 8.

"They're hoping we're going to cool down and that's why we do these types of things," said rally organizer Toni Shellen, of BRADY United to Prevent Gun Violence. "I think people are pretty darn angry, and we want them to pass the bills that have passed the House not a watered-down version."

GOP leaders and President Trump have rebuffed calls to return early, but expressed willingness to consider expanded background checks and "red flag" restrictions on who can buy and own guns.

However, Trump avoids blaming the glut and availability of high-power weapons.

This week, he suggested more mental hospitals be built, as a way to stem gun violence.

"We don't want people that are mentally ill, people that are sick, we don't want them having guns," Trump said.

The connection between gun violence and mental illness is not supported by any evidence, however.

"People with mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violence than to perpetrate it," said Rev. Barbara Meyers, who ministers to those with mental illness.

"Less than 5 percent of gun violence is linked to mental illness, most of it is from people who are acting out anger and hate."

About 50 people attended Fremont's rally.

"I have very little faith that whatever Congress does, it will be enough at this point," said third-grade teacher Leda Mares.

Mares expects the debate will be dominated by the NRA and gun owners' rights.

"I feel the rights of some are taking away the right of liberty and freedom, and feeling at peace and feeling safe for the majority of us," she added.

One of the youngest rally participants was Annie Koruga, 14.

"I'm sad and I'm angry, that this seems inevitable, that multiple mass shootings happen on a single day," Koruga told KTVU.

Now with school starting, activists say gun reform will not fade from voter's minds.

"You say bye honey, here's your lunch, snack, book and bullet-proof backpack," said Shellen," and how's that going to affect the mental health of that child, the parents or the rest of us?"

Many people attending the rally held signs in the shape of headstones- each commemorating a mass shooting.

"We wrote the name of the place, the date, and the number killed," said McShea.

As a nurse, she recalled how the government had an aggressive response to Ebola a few years ago, when far fewer people died compared to the daily average of 100 people a day being killed by guns.

"Ebola was barely an outbreak and gun violence is clearly an epidemic," McShea said. "And when I go places with my son, I make a plan in my head for where we would run and where we would hide if we had to."

The gun control groups organizing most of the rallies are Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action.

They are also spending about $1 million on television and digital ads against Republican senators who are resisting reform.

This story was edited on Aug. 20 to correct the Ebola death toll.