The Debate

The Film

 “Unfortunately, the tragedies that do happen in schools, especially in suburban schools, are like a wake-up call.  Who would think that a child could be murdered in school?  It does not matter where you live, 
and it’s not just an urban problem, it’s a problem in this country. 
 It can happen to child is really safe.” 
— Frances Davis, founder, Mothers of All Children
  Million Mom March 2000 -- anti-gun moms 
 Pro-gun rally 2000 -- pro gun moms   “When a woman can carry a handgun for self-defense, a woman has equality.  And if the so-called feminist movement is about equality, then I guess I would be a feminist. -- Maria Heil, spokesperson, Second Amendment Sisters 


The Million Moms and the Second Amendment Sisters are two advocacy groups diametrically opposed on gun control, but they agree on one point: mothers will and should have a voice in determining gun control policy in America. GUNS & MOTHERS explores the grassroots beliefs of both movements by focusing on two different women, living in two different Americas.

Frances Davis lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Having lost all three of her sons to gun violence, she advocates for stronger gun control and supports the Million Moms. She and the Million Moms see stronger gun control laws as a way to prevent the alarmingly high number of deaths of young people from gun violence in America, an estimated 10 deaths per day.

Maria Heil has four children and lives in rural Pennsylvania. Convinced that a gun is a woman’s best tool for self-defense, she’s become active with the Second Amendment Sisters. These women believe guns are the most effective way a woman can protect herself and her family. They quote statistics about lives saved by the use of guns to support their views.

Frances Davis and other mothers who lost children to gun violence
Frances Davis and other mothers who lost children to gun violence

The Second Amendment Sisters invoke the symbol of Uncle Sam for their pro-gun rally
Second Amendment Sisters invoke Uncle Sam


The film follows their parallel crusades over the course of a year, starting on Mother’s Day 2000 when the two movements were born with the Million Mom March on Washington and the Second Amendment Sisters’ smaller counter-rally that same day. Fueled by the national shock and outrage over the shootings at Columbine High School, the Million Moms were committed to using the wholesome image of mom and apple pie to get Congress to hear their concerns. With inside access to both sides, filmmaker Thom Powers shows how both the Million Moms and the NRA recruited women; how tempers flared around the gun issue; how presidential candidates handled the debate; and how the movements looked a year later.

Throughout the narrative, two keen observers of gun politics, author Robert Spitzer and New York Times journalist Fox Butterfield, shed light on the dialogue. As Butterfield says, “People in America have two entirely different experiences with guns. As long as there’s such a huge chasm between the two sides, it’s very hard to get them agree on any new proposals. There appears to be no middle ground.”


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