Alma is a member of the anti-gun lobby. She works for The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence , an organisation which lobbies for more effective gun control. Alma is an African American who grew up in Alabama but now lives in Massachusetts.
Alma is an ex-convict who spent seven years in prison for armed robbery. She was 18 years old at the time and was part of a gang. They stole money at gunpoint to pay for drugs. In her neighbourhood, drug taking was the norm. So were guns. They were easy to get hold of and an effective tool in a robbery.
Alma 's experience is that gun shops don't concern themselves with who's buying. Even children can lay their hands on a gun. The law in Alabama offers little or no safeguards. Gun owners are not held accountable for making sure kids don't get access. There are no state police background checks on people who own guns. People don't even have to register as owning a gun.
Growing up, Alma knew lots of people who'd been shot, for one reason or another, usually in gang fights. This didn't make much impression on her till her sister was shot and killed during one of these fights. That's when the tragedy of it all struck her.
Alma 's sister Cate had been in a gang. Others in the gang had obtained handguns easily, so she too had become involved in the culture of carrying a weapon believing she needed it for self-defence. Illegally carrying a weapon became a badge of membership in her gang, a sign of living a gangster lifestyle.
After her sister's death, Alma woke up to her situation. She decided to move north to Massachusetts , where she had family, so that she could be away from the negative influences of her old life. When she moved, she was struck by the differences in the gun control laws in her old home state of Alabama and the laws in her new home state, Massachusetts . There are many more legal restrictions on owning a gun in Massachusetts than there are in Alabama . Alma began to wonder how things might have turned out for herself and Cate if there had been more restrictions on gun ownership in Alabama.
Alma decided that if guns were not so easily available, her sister Cate, and many other Americans who have been the victims of gun crime, would still be alive. She decided guns should not be a feature of American life. She began to take an active interest in politics, and decided one of the most effective ways to campaign against gun ownership was to support The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
In the 2004 Presidential election, Alma looked forward to voting for the Democratic candidate, Massachusetts Congressman John Kerry. This was remarkable since she'd never even bothered to register to vote before.
Before he became a Presidential candidate, John Kerry said he believed in stronger gun control and that he supported the introduction of federal legislation which would tighten gun laws.
Events leading up to the election left Alma disappointed. Both George Bush and John Kerry were keen not to upset either side of the gun ownership debate. Despite his record as being tough on gun control, Kerry seemed keen to promote himself in the run-up to the election as a hunter and gun enthusiast. There was much public debate surrounding this, although Kerry and his supporters insisted that it was perfectly possible to support the Second Amendment and tough gun laws.
Alma still voted for Kerry, not because she thought he was ideal, but because she acknowledged that Kerry faced a difficult problem. As a lobbyist, she's begun to follow the complicated machinations of American politics quite closely.
She knows that, after the Columbine massacre in 1999, many Americans had begun to think more carefully about the dangers associated with guns. Despite this, she'd been told, the anti-gun message was the reason why the Democrats lost seats and lost control of Congress in 2002.
Even so, Alma is not giving up. She's heartened by the fact that some individual states are strengthening gun controls. For example, New Jersey 's state legislature has passed an Act which requires new handguns to have a special mechanism that will allow only their owners to fire them.
She'll keep campaigning and hoping that, next time round, popular support will win the political argument. She particularly hopes to encourage more supporters of gun control to become active and participate more fully and energetically in the campaign. Alma believes that the NRA is successful in promoting its interests because members are so actively involved in lobbying legislators at the local and national level. With many polls reporting a rising passive support for more effective gun control legislation, she feels there is the potential to engage more people in active campaigning for restrictions on access to firearms.