"I am a lifelong NRA member. My wife is a NRA member. My kids learned to shoot almost before they could walk," a man named Bill, who lives "not in Seattle" tells me. We're standing at Westlake Park, waiting for yesterday's gun control march to begin, and Bill is holding a small, handmade sign that reads, "Put the Guns Down." He'd rather I not take his picture, he says, because he's worried about "catching hell" from his shooting buddies.
So what brings this lifelong NRA member to Seattle's chewy liberal center on a day when frost is driving most people indoors—a day he'd normally be watching football with friends and family?
"My brother was killed with a gun. My wife's nephew was killed with a gun. I have a neighbor who lost his son to gun violence. And then Newtown... It just has to stop," he says. "As I see it, the most sure-fire way to stop people from killing other people with guns is to take guns out of the equation."
He continues: "It's a hard thing for me to admit. I had to witness too many lives ruined to get to this point. I love shooting. It's a hard thing to do, to take yourself out of that culture where I live. But I'm trying to do it one step at a time." Bill's New Year's resolution this year is to sell off his entire gun collection. Retire his lifelong NRA membership. Find a new sport to enjoy. "Maybe the crossbow."
Bill might've been one of the few recovering NRA members to attend Sunday's gun control rally but he was hardly alone. Event organizer Washington Ceasefire estimates that roughly 1,000 people braved the cold to march the mile from Westlake Park to the Seattle Center and demand our state legislature make gun control a priority this session. (My crowd estimate was about half that.)
Leading the charge was state Senator Ed Murray (D-Seattle), who says he'll introduce legislation this week to ban assault weapons. "No more children need to die," Murray tells the crowd after the walk to Seattle Center.
"That's what I want to hear," Bill mutters next to me. "That's why I came to march."
More photos from yesterday's rally, taken by Molly Bauer, after the jump.