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OFA volunteers thank John McCain ... and he thanks them back

Organizing for Actions volunteers thank Senator John McCain for his support of comprehensive background checks for commercial gun sales. Photo by Jerry Burch

Organizing for Action volunteers in Phoenix gathered on Saturday with mixed emotions. We’d held over a dozen events and delivered thousands of petitions asking our senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, to support comprehensive background checks for gun sales. We were hopeful after the announcement of the Manchin-Toomey compromise, and then angry and disappointed when Senator Flake went back on his word and refused to support the bill.

But even though the bill was blocked by a minority of senators, our senior senator, John McCain, voted “yes,” one of only four Republicans to do so.

We are all so passionate about this issue that we decided to gather on Saturday to demand an answer and action from Senator Flake, but also to thank Senator McCain for standing with the 90% of Americans who support this common-sense step to prevent gun violence.

We started the afternoon at Senator Flake’s office. More than 120 volunteers came early, with homemade signs and letters. Others wrote notes to Senator Flake, showing that neither we nor this issue was going away. We listened to the passionate pleas from gun violence survivors, family members of gun violence victims, grief counselors, and domestic violence advocates, as well as an encouraging speech from State Senator Steve Gallardo continuing our call to action.

Shortly after, we wrote thank-you notes to Senator McCain and then made our way across the street to his office, with “thank you” signs in hand. The speakers commended Senator McCain for showing leadership on this issue, and made it clear that we’re still hopeful that, with his help and support, we will get a bipartisan law to protect our country and our local community.

Hildy Saizow, from Arizonans for Gun Safety, was concluding her speech with a passionate call to “give a big thank-you to Senator John McCain” when a white-haired gentleman in a blue blazer turned the corner. We were shocked and excited to see Senator McCain himself, who had been driving by his office on his way home and had seen the thank-you signs. The senator had pulled over to the side of the road to thank his constituents for our support.

More than 100 OFA volunteers were able to thank the senator for his leadership in person, and Gloria Galeno, a gun violence survivor and advocate against domestic violence, shook the senator’s hand. Many noted the stark contrast between the two senators here in Arizona.

When I personally thanked Senator McCain for stopping by he simply said he wanted to meet his constituents who supported him on this important issue for Arizona. It was an uplifting end to our day, and an encouraging example of how our activism is making a difference.

One “yes” vote down, one more to go—and we are not giving up the fight.
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