When Giselle Morch walked up to the wooden podium at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring Tuesday night, she was overcome with emotion. She stomped her feet with frustration, shook her head vehemently and wiped away tears, while recounting the evening when her son Jaycee Webster was shot and killed in the family’s Silver Spring home.
On the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Morch, dressed in a red Moms Demand Action T-shirt, described her family’s history to 200 people, including U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), Montgomery County Executive Marc B. Elrich (D) and state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) at a rally and candlelight vigil to end gun violence.
“My son Jaycee was murdered in 2017 and it’s time that we make a difference,” Morch said. “I’m here because I want to make sure it doesn’t happen to somebody else. If you put a face behind a number then it becomes reality, then you can relate.”
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) was the official host of the event, but he was forced to cancel his appearance due to an evening vote in the House on gun safety legislation [see related story]. Several speakers at the rally brought up the legislation as being part of the essential next steps. Van Hollen and Frosh praised Raskin’s work and called on the U.S. Senate to act on the gun control legislation that is moving through the House.
“You need to sustain energy in order to accomplish any goal, and that’s what this is about,” Van Hollen told Maryland Matters. “This is about making sure that we keep the pressure on, we keep speaking out, that people see that there are people fighting for this issue.”
According to Van Hollen, political pressure is mounting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring up the universal background bill for a vote.
McConnell’s name was a popular mention throughout the evening, and in four instances was met with loud boos from the crowd.
With Congress newly back from summer recess, Democrats are trying to ride a wave of citizen anger on the issue, after a summer filled with mass shootings across the country.
That momentum is what brought Barbara Hoey out to the rally. Hoey, a member of Moms Demand Action for the past two years, joined the organization after watching students from Parkland High School in Florida push for gun reform.
“I’m here to support the efforts to get background checks extended to all gun sales both in Maryland and the country and to fight for other common-sense gun legislation that would make us safer,” Hoey said.
Many of the evening’s speakers said they were less concerned about gun sales and gun violence within the state than with how lack of federal legislation will continue to affect Maryland.
The gun that killed Morch’s son was purchased one week before his death in Virginia.
“More than half of the guns in Maryland used to commit crimes and involved in killings come from outside of Maryland, where they do not have the kind of laws we have,” Van Hollen said to the audience.
In Maryland gun owners must give their fingerprints to the state when they purchase a weapon in order to do what Frosh called “deep” and “accurate” background checks.
Those gun restrictions do not exist nationwide, and are what Van Hollen and Raskin are pushing for in Congress.
“This isn’t a moment, ‘cause moments, like this band, it will soon be over,” Morch said. “But a movement keeps going on and on and this educates people.”