Moms Demand Action Colorado leader talks guns, background checks and Chipotle

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The group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is celebrating a victory after Chipotle requested that its customers not bring guns into its restaurants. The group had pressured the Colorado-based chain to take a stand following an incident in which open-carry supporters brought assault rifles into a Texas Chipotle.

We caught up with Jennifer Hope, the leader of the local Moms Demand Action chapter. Hope is a Golden mother of eight whose passion about gun safety was partly inspired by her experience of nearly being caught in the crossfire of the 2011 capture of the Dougherty gang, two brothers and a sister who led police on a wild car chase.

Hope was returning from a vacation in Taos, New Mexico, with five of her daughters when police diverted her off the highway near Walsenburg. The Doughertys' alleged crime spree -- which authorities said involved a car chase in Florida and a bank robbery in Georgia -- was big news at the time, and Hope knew that siblings Ryan, Dylan and Lee Grace were believed to be in the area. She just didn't expect to run smack into their takedown.

Here's how we described that takedown in a blog post on August 11, 2011:

Yesterday just past 9 a.m., according to the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, members of the department, as well as troopers with the Colorado State Patrol, received a report about a suspicious vehicle -- namely the white Subaru Impreza the Doughertys had last been seen driving.

Deputies from Pueblo and several neighboring counties quickly responded, and a detective soon spotted the car. The Doughertys apparently noticed, because they high-tailed it south on Interstate 25 toward Walsenburg, leading a pursuit that exceeded 100 miles per hour. The PCSO reports that shots were fired during the chase.

The end came around Mile Marker 52, when the Subaru hit some stop sticks arranged by authorities and flipped over a guardrail. One of the boys was injured in the crash and couldn't flee, while the other was rounded up shortly thereafter. Lee, for her part, tried to escape into a ditch, armed with an automatic weapon. After she ignored orders to drop it, the cops shot her. The wound is described as non-life threatening.

From where she'd been diverted, partly to avoid hitting those stop sticks, Hope says she and her daughters could hear automatic weapon fire. "It was so shocking," Hope says. "I don't know why I wasn't pushed more into action then."

Although she'd lived through the Columbine school shootings in April 1999, as well as the shootings at the Aurora movie theater in July 2012, it wasn't until twenty children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012 that Hope was inspired to act. She found Moms Demand Action and joined.

"I was tired of waiting for somebody else to do it," she says. "We'd been waiting for our legislators for so long to stand up to the NRA and protect our families, and at that point, I realized it's going to have to be us. It's going to have to be the moms."

Continue for more about Moms Demand Action's work in Colorado. Hope, whose children range in age from eight to thirty, says Moms Demand Action isn't anti-gun. The group believes in the Second Amendment -- but it wants to see guns used safely. "Here in Colorado, we have such a frontier history with hunters and guns," Hope says. But she doesn't believe in "a gun for everybody, everywhere." One of Moms Demand Action's biggest pushes is for universal background checks for gun sales.

Hope says the group's petition to Chipotle isn't part of a campaign targeting restaurants. Rather, she says, Moms Demand Action was simply responding to a situation that seems more and more common these days, partly due to demonstrations by open-carry groups in Texas. Hope, for one, was pleased with Chipotle's response.

"I think it's brave for them to say, 'This is not what we want for our stores. We want to comply with state laws, but this isn't the image we want for our restaurants,'" Hope says of Chipotle and others -- including Starbucks -- that have asked customers to leave their guns at home. "That will go a long way when trying to get legislators in office who will stand up and say, 'Maybe we need to change the laws in this state.'"

Moms Demand Action has more than a thousand members in Colorado, Hope says. The group's current campaign is getting voters to sign Gun Sense Voter pledges, in which they pledge to vote for candidates who "will fight for commonsense laws to reduce gun violence." The moms will be out in full force at farmers' markets and festivals this summer trying to get people to sign before the November election, Hope says.

Moms Demand Action also has some July 4 events planned, Hope says, and is aiming to hold a quilting bee to make a quilt with survivors of gun violence -- which is part of Moms Demand Action's Mother's Dream Quilt Project.

More from our Gun Culture archive: "Chipotle: Don't bring guns into our restaurants."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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