Before they began calls Monday night urging people to vote for Initiative 594, the volunteers sitting around a folding table in a St. Mark’s Cathedral campus building took turns saying why they had come.
Rory Graves came because her mother’s husband had shot her mother. A couple, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, told about the daughter they lost in a July 2012 Colorado movie-theater shooting. Another, Cheryl Stumbo, survived the 2006 Jewish Federation shooting in Seattle that left a co-worker dead.
After they finished, the dozen or so people applauded the woman standing at the head of the table: Nicole Hockley, mother of a 6-year-old boy killed in the December 2012 Newtown, Conn., school shootings.
Hockley had come to speak to the volunteers working for I-594, the measure on the November ballot to expand the requirements for gun-purchase background checks to include private sales and transfers.
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“Honestly, it should be me that’s clapping for all of you,” said Hockley, 43, who lost her son Dylan in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. “You’ve all experienced something in your life that has made you want a change.”
The camaraderie and chaos of making calls at a crowded table creates a kinship among those who’ve lost someone to a shooting, or survived one themselves.
“There’s just this community that you don’t want to belong to,” said Sandy Phillips, 64, a San Antonio, Texas, resident who says she will remain in Washington working for I-594 until the election. “If you could resign from this, you would resign from it in a heartbeat.”
Phillips met Hockley not long after the Connecticut shootings, after traveling there to meet the families just beginning to cope with their losses. Before Monday’s phone bank began, Hockley, who spent her time at the event on the verge of tears, visited with Phillips in the back of the room.
This isn’t Hockley’s first campaign for stricter gun laws. She’s a member of Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit formed after the Connecticut shootings to work to stop gun violence.
She and other families have traveled to state legislatures around the country, as well as the U.S. Congress, to persuade lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws.
And over the summer, Hockley appeared in a TV ad for Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who helped push through a series of gun laws after Sandy Hook.
But activism on such a personal issue does not come naturally to her.
“It does not get easier,” Hockley said. But, “I’ve committed my life to this.”
Her stops in Seattle — Hockley will knock on doors with I-594 advocates Tuesday evening — comes as Washington state voters decide what kind of gun laws they’d like to have.
There’s I-594, the background-checks measure, but also I-591, an initiative from gun-rights activists that would prevent Washington state from expanding background checks and reiterate that government agencies cannot confiscate firearms without due process.
Gun-rights advocates have criticized I-594, saying it would criminalize ordinary gun owners passing guns to each other in a firearms-safety classes or while loaning guns to friends.
Hockley’s stop comes just days after a student at Marysville-Pilchuck High School shot five students before taking his own life. The handgun he used had been legally purchased by a relative.
Two of those shot Friday have died: Zoe Galasso died the day of the shooting; Gia Soriano died Sunday night at an Everett hospital. Two others are in critical condition, and the fifth is in satisfactory condition.
Hockley says she hasn’t heard from the families of victims of the Marysville shootings. But that could change.
“I would be more than willing to have private meetings with them at anytime,” Hockley said. “If there’s anything I can do that might help them, I’m definitely there for them.”
Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report. Joseph O’Sullivan: 360-236-8268 or firstname.lastname@example.org