The local chapter of Moms Demand Action has grown dramatically since February's shooting in Florida.

COURTESY PHOTO - Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, speaks to a packed house at the Hillsboro chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group which formed in 2012 to end gun violence in America.A Hillsboro activist group against gun violence has seen an upswell in new members in the weeks since the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead.

The Hillsboro chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America had to move its monthly meeting on Friday, after more than 100 people RSVP'd to attend it.

Sharri Anderson, local group leader for the Hillsboro chapter, said she usually draws about five people each month to her local meetings at downtown coffee shops.

On Friday, the meeting had to be moved to the Vault Theater, in order to accommodate the 136 people who showed up to address the issue of gun violence.

Moms Demand Action advocates for legislative changes to gun-safety laws on the local and national level.

"We are trying to educate and empower people right now," Anderson said. "Everyone is so angry and so scared. They really want to do something."

One of the new faces who attended Anderson's meeting Friday was Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. The Beaverton Democrat spoke to the group about Congressional work being done to address gun violence.

Bonamici is a proponent of several Democratically-led efforts to curb violence, including universal background checks before gun sales, reinstating a ban on military-style assault weapons and limiting the size of gun magazines.

"As a mom and a policymaker, I stand with Moms Demand Action and call on my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation to prevent gun violence," Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici told the Tribune after Friday's meeting. "Every day people lose their lives to gun violence, and it's past time for Congress to take action."

The Hillsboro group is planning another community meeting at 4 p.m., Sunday, March 18, at First Congregational United Church of Christ, 494 E. Main St.

Anderson got involved with the organization a few years ago after a threat at her children's school.

In 2014, Glencoe High School went into lockdown after two unrelated incidents at the same time led police to search the school room by room for a suspected-shooter.

At the time, a student had reported seeing a teen armed with a gun a few blocks from the school. Earlier that day, a student posted a photograph onto social media depicting himself with a rifle, threatening a teacher at the school to not "walk down any dark alleys." The photo was a joke, the student said later.

The two incidents were unrelated and no gunman was ever found, but Anderson said it shook her to her core and drove her to get involved to stopping gun violence.

"My daughter was at that school," she said. "There were hundreds of scared kids and family members. It's scary to be a parent these days. It's scary to be a person right now. Just going to church or to the movies can get you killed."

Anderson said mass shootings have become commonplace in America.

"I feel like every person I talk to has a personal story, or a personal connection to a place that has experienced a mass shooting," Anderson said. "We have gotten to that point where everybody has a connection to one of these shootings. That's really disturbing."

Moms Demand Action was founded in 2012, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which left 28 dead.

Since then, the group has grown to more than 4 million members, with chapters in each state, Anderson said.

"Las Vegas. Orlando. Parkland. Sandy Hook. It crushes me, but it also motivates me," she said. "This is a work of passion. I feel like it's my duty as a parent to do this."

Anderson said she believes there may be enough momentum after the Parkland shooting to bring about change. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been outspoken about their support for reforming gun laws.

"I think people are just fed up," she said. "Little by little, state by state, step by step, we have been advocating for good gun bills."

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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