Cheryl Todd takes us behind-the-scenes in this after-action report of the #DCProject.
It began with the question “What if?” What if I could sit down legislators in our nation’s capital and help them better understand who values the Second Amendment, and why?
This is the 2-part question that 3-Gun Competitive Shooting Champion, Dianna Muller, asked herself in December 2015. Eight months later, she saw the answer emerge in the form of The DC Project (DCP), aka The #DCProject, and the DC Project Rally.
The DC project brought 50 women, one from each state, to Washington, D.C., to establish relationships with their legislators and revealed the faces and stories firearms owners and Second Amendment supporters. The rally took place on West Lawn of the Capitol Building as a way to celebrate the new friendships that had been formed and the experiences these ladies had while on Capitol Hill. I was proud to be among them, along with my daughter, Cassie Todd-Jameson, and her daughter, two-year-old Raelynn Rose Jameson – three generations being represented as we met and talked with our legislators.
The DCP is a true grassroots effort. Every participant came to the capital on our own dime. Each woman took time off of her job, used vacation time and spent her own money for plane, train and automobile expenses. Each paid for her own hotel room and all of her own meals. When asked why each of us would invest so heavily in a brand new idea, we said it is too important to let others continue to speak on our behalfs. It is too important to allow others to interpret for us our desire to protect and preserve this vital Constitutional right, and was summed up in Mississippi’s Skincare Studio owner Kim Condon’s comment, “The DCP opened my eyes to how important OUR voices are and being a resource of CORRECT information for them is priceless!”
The DCP also is a true bi-partisan effort. As Tier1 Gun Store owner, Katy Brown, from Washington state said, “Among our ladies are liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans and everything in between.” Everyone checked her pre-conceived notion at the door and came together as supporters of the Constitution. Not only was it eye opening to stand side by side with women from a variety of political persuasions, all focused on the same goal, but we also met with legislators on both sides of the aisle and the issue.
Once Dianna Muller made the bold decision to bring The DCP to life, she reached out to her friends, Julianna Crowder and Robyn Sandoval of A Girl and A Gun Shooting Club, to help spread the news among AG&AG’s membership. From there, the news enthusiastically passed from friend to friend and the roster for each state filled. Each participant, empowered by the excitement of being part of a group effort, contacted her own individual state representatives and made appointments. For many of us, it was the first time we have ever contacted our legislators, much less travel all the way to Washington, D.C., and request a face-to-face meeting with those we have elected. The process could seem intimidating and somewhat daunting, but we were encouraged by our new friends and fellow DCP-ers. Freelance writer Beth Alcazar, of Alabama, who describes herself as a “Busy Wife and Mom … with a Gun,” stated, “The D.C. Project gave me an opportunity to move beyond my community and out of my comfort zone to share why our right to protect ourselves is so important.”
As each of us met with our legislators and their staffers, it became apparent that our representatives were as happy and interested to connect with us as we were with them. Even the legislators from states that are traditionally anti-Second Amendment received the ladies of the DCP with respect and warm regard.
The DCP lady from California, attorney and vice president of The Liberal Gun Club, Lara Cullinane Smith, who is a liberal Democrat, met with both the offices of U.S. California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. “The DCP gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of the fact that our government is truly both for the people and by the people. I was so impressed at how our legislators welcomed all of us and were both interested in and thankful for our input,” said Smith.
On the final day of the event all of the ladies of the DCP met on the West Lawn of the Capitol to celebrate with a rally. Our efforts became the subject of several news stories over the course of the three days of the DCP. Rally speakers included a diverse representation of women who participated in the event. Among the 10 speakers were Kimberly Corban from Colorado and Kristi McMains from Indiana, both of whom have survived violent attacks in their past and name the Second Amendment as vital to never being victimized again. Amanda Suffecool, a firearms instructor from Ohio, spoke on the history of the Second Amendment. Both Becky Yackly, a competition shooter from Wisconsin and Corinne Mosher from Missouri, who is of the Millennial Generation and one of our youngest DCP ladies, impressed on the crowd that self-defense allows them to protect themselves and their children. Former U.S. Marine, Amy Dillon, from South Carolina spoke of her duty to defend our country and our Constitution. Gabby Franco-Pepper, who was born in Venezuela and adopted the United States as her home, hails from Texas and drew comparisons of the laws and personal limitations she experienced in Venezuela versus the freedom and voice she enjoys here as the reason she does everything she can to protect our Second Amendment and all parts of the Constitution. And presenting the keynote address was Gayle Trotter of Washington, D.C. Gayle is a wife, a mom, and in 2013 presented testimony before the United States Judiciary Committee hearing on gun rights in America. I also was honored to be asked to the podium, and will never forget this moment of my life.
The next trip is planned for February 2017, and as we made our way back to our home states, Brooke Cheney, owner of Cheney Family Farmer’s Market in Connecticut, summed up our experience: “The DCP allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and be awed by so many amazing women and stories.”
As part of The DC Project we have made the first step in letting our legislators see a new face of constituents who value our Second Amendment rights. We let lawmakers know the reasons why we want our Constitution protected, and we will continue to reach out to them both in D.C. and in our home states.
For more information on The DC Project please visit www.agirlandagun.org/dc-project/.