Granny get your gun

Dallas' pistol-packing 'Second Amendment Sister'--63-year-old grandma Mary Thompson--takes aim at a million moms

"Be prepared," Mary Thompson tells a reporter while making a date to meet in the smoking section of a Far North Dallas Mexican restaurant. An hour later, she's waiting with two Dallas friends she met through the Free Republic Web site (she heads its North Texas chapter and plans meetings and protests for the close-knit group). There's John Bender, a freelance writer for the conservative Web site Etherzone, and Kathy Carruth, who keeps quiet throughout lunch except to say of President Clinton, "I think the man is pure evil."

It's about a week after the "Armed Informed Mothers March," and Thompson is still recuperating. "This activism stuff is hard work," she says with a grin. Never fear; she's still committed to the cause. "Its getting so we might need a Second American Revolution," she exclaims when the subject of gun control is broached. "I don't think this country can survive Al Gore. When you see these Supreme Court nominees coming up, we'll be a police state in four years."

I ask to see her gun, and she discreetly takes her Kel-Tec P-32, out of her purse. It's a small, lightweight handgun obviously designed for "concealed carry" purposes. She tucks it in a special pocket of her handbag so she can walk into public places with her hand on her gun, just in case she's threatened.

In front of the Washington Monument, the Second Amendment Sisters staged a counter-demonstration to the Million Mom March.
In front of the Washington Monument, the Second Amendment Sisters staged a counter-demonstration to the Million Mom March.

The shocking murder of a 75-year-old woman during a botched robbery in the parking lot of a nearby department store last July reaffirmed her decision to pack heat, she says. There's a little more to the story, though. Tragically, the elderly woman was murdered after struggling with a man who tried to take her purse. Pushed to the ground, she was run over--accidentally, it seems--by the escaping con, a depraved crack-cocaine addict who needed cash for a fix.

But is Thompson drawing the wrong lesson from this incident? If you are held up, why not just hand over the loot and avoid possible death? To Thompson, it's a matter of pride not to be victimized. "They touch me, I shoot them," she says. "It's as simple as that. In a heartbeat."

Bender, who argues that gun-rights groups are akin to civil rights groups such as the ACLU or NAACP, complains of a certain local daily newspaper's failure to do a story on the locally rooted Second Amendment Sisters. Yet whether the Sisters are "Dallas-based," as newspapers across the country have reported in accounts of the Washington protests, is up for debate. That's because Thompson is the only Dallas Sister out of the group's five founders (the other four live in New Jersey, Illinois, South Carolina, and Florida).

If you count the box Thompson has rented at the nearby Mr. Parcel location to collect the group's mail, the Sisters are indeed "Dallas-based." On a good day, Thompson says, the group receives about 80 letters from across the country, although that figure has dropped off as the Million Mom March receded from the news. Sister Thompson's duties are to reply to the piles of mail and perform needed bookkeeping of donations mailed in by supportive citizens. So far, after only six months of existence, the group has reaped $40,000, she says; the average person donates $20 to $25.

A still-fiery redhead at 63, Thompson is a staunch right-winger, whether one calls it social conservatism (she's against abortion) or Libertarianism (hands off my gun, buster). She has magnetic anti-Bill and -Hillary Clinton bumper stickers on the back of her white Lexus (one advertises, as well as a Keyes 2000 sticker. Thompson admits that she's more outspoken politically than some other Sisters. That's why she wasn't picked for the media-liaison job. "I am not a good subject to interview because I say what I think," she says.

She's visited Washington nine times in 18 months to participate in protests organized by Free Republic comrades and has organized local rallies to razz Clinton's motorcade when he comes to town. "We stand in front of the White House and yell the guy in there is a sexual predator on the loose," she says.

Despite her napalm-strength politics, Thompson is grandmotherly in other aspects. Her heart goes out to letter-writers (she has several bags full of epistles) who pour out their life stories on learning to hunt and shoot as children and tell why they think gun rights are crucial. People of modest means who send in a few bucks to the Sisters also move her tremendously. "A lot of people send $5 and apologize because that's all they can send," she says.

Thompson, who grew up in Beaumont, Texas, and met her husband as a nurse in Baltimore, hasn't worked since she was much younger and unashamedly offers the term "kept woman" to describe herself. Her husband, a businessman nearing retirement, is not political and sometimes gets peeved with his wife's activism. "He's not thrilled this has taken so much of my time," she says, "but he's known me long enough to not mess with a red-hair."

The kids aren't happy either. "I've been stuck here since January," she admits. "The kids get upset that I don't baby-sit for them." So why keep on with the Sisters--and the hours of paperwork activism demands? "I love my country," she says, "but I don't like the way it's going. I cannot stand to sit back as our Constitution gets trashed."

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