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Gun control advocates rally in Santa Rosa

  • (From left)Sonia Sinton-Clark, Ellen Sherron, Myrna Spiegler, and Cecilia Ducharme hold pictures of children killed by gun violence during a gun control rally at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, California on Thursday, September 5, 2013. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

Shirley Gillham was overcome with emotion Thursday as she read aloud the name of 5-year-old murder victim Max Walters to a group gathered at Old Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa.

Max and his mother, Kathryn, were shot to death in January in Las Vegas by the boy's father, Hans Walters, who then killed himself.

Though she never met Max and has no children of her own, Gillham said that hearing about innocent lives lost to gun violence impassions her.

Santa Rosa Gun Control Rally

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"It's always harder when it's children," said Gillham, a volunteer community organizer. "They shouldn't be taken in the way they were taken. It's another baby taken far too young."

Gillham and about 60 others were in the square to show support for gun-control legislation.

Members of the group Organizing for Action read the names of some of the 146 children who have been killed by guns in the U.S. since the December mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., that sparked the latest round of national gun-control dialogue.

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, chairman of the House gun violence prevention task force and co-sponsor of a bill to expand background checks, told the crowd that background checks for gun sales can work on the national level to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill.

"We know that the background checks work," he said. "We need to get this thing passed. Don't give up hope. I will continue to push this thing until the day it's signed into law."

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane and District Attorney Jill Ravitch spoke in favor of Thompson's bill, which has more than 180 co-signers and is being debated in a House subcommittee.

"We need federal background checks," Zane said. "That is how we are going to protect people."


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