After her husband of 30 years had choked her, Jody Marchand told her 17-year-old daughter, Liv, to pack her clothes so they could leave their home in Westford.
Her husband was losing control, and she knew he kept guns in their home. But the mother and daughter did not escape gun violence on that night in February 2010.
Marchand survived a shot to the head, but her only daughter was fatally shot. Her husband then turned the gun on himself, and investigators later determined he was in possession of more than 20 guns, some of which were not registered.
Today, Marchand is a gun control activist, and she took her fight to stop a gun shop from opening in Westford to Beacon Hill on Wednesday.
“They don’t allow a drive-though Starbucks, but they allow a gun store,” Marchand said, a member of Moms Demand Action, who joined hundreds of other gun safety proponents that rallied at the Massachusetts State House for an annual advocacy day. “What good is our society when that can happen?”
The Gardner Auditorium was a sea of red shirts and fierce determination as gun violence survivors and volunteers from both Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action gathered for the event organized by Everytown for Gun Safety, a national nonprofit.
The crowd listened to speakers before splitting into groups to spend the rest of the day meeting with lawmakers.
The 2023-24 state legislative session is “an opportunity for Massachusetts to lead the nation,” said Angela Christiana, the state’s community outreach leader for Moms Demand Action.
At the top of their agenda: combat ghost guns (untraceable firearms that are purchased online and can be assembled at home), improve gun safety standards, and invest in community violence intervention programs.
Marchand and fellow Westford resident Bridget McDonald asked the staff of their state senator, Democrat John Cronin, to create zoning laws that would restrict any more gun shops from opening.
“They were saying there’s a cap at three to five gun shops in our small town — we already have two gun ranges,” McDonald said. “People think that because we’re in Massachusetts, we’re safe. We are not safe.”
The rally was planned in advance of the nation’s latest mass shooting. On Monday, at The Covenant School in Nashville, six people, including three 9-year-olds, were killed by a former student with a legally-purchased assault-style gun. It is the 130th mass shooting of 2023, only 88 days into the year.
“You can schedule this for any day of the year and there will have been a gun violence tragedy within the last week,” said Kerrin Driscoll, a Braintree Moms Demand Action volunteer. “We tend to get numb to these sorts of things. We can’t allow that to happen.”
In remarks to the crowd, House judiciary chair Michael Day promised legislative action on firearms would happen during his term, which ends at the end of 2023.
“You’ve got the commitment of the Speaker of the House and the House itself that we’ll be getting something done this term,” Day said.
Massachusetts has some of the strongest gun control laws in the country and has the second-lowest firearm death rate in the nation. But a June 2022 Supreme Court decision threatening gun licensing restrictions has reinvigorated activists.
“More than 210 people every day die of gun violence in this country, but it’s those mass shootings that make the headlines that cause people to pay attention to the issue,” said Carol Savage, who has been involved with Moms Demand Action since the 2018 Parkland shooting. “It brings people out, but what we really need is a sustained conversation about how to solve the issue of gun violence.”
Sonel Cutler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @cutler_sonel.