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article imageOp-Ed: Moms Demand Action fight for gun control

By Michael Terron     Nov 19, 2014 in Politics
Guns don't kill; people do. However, too many guns, irresponsibly used and in the wrong hands, are injuring and killing too many people. A gun license, like a driver's license, should be a privilege, not a right.
The morning after the senseless murders of 20 school kids in Newtown, Connecticut, a former Indianapolis public relations executive, Shannon Watts, created a facebook page. Moved to tears by the massacre, she sent out a clarion call: "Change will require action by angry Americans outside of Washington, D.C. Join us - we will need strength in numbers against a resourceful, powerful and intransigent gun lobby."
Within three days, the first chapter of Moms Demand Action was formed when Watts and five others gathered for a Skype call in Brooklyn .The Sandy Hook tragedy was, for these women, tantamount to 9/11. Although none of them had ever been political activists they, collectively, recalled that in the 1980s, another group of fledgling,impassioned mothers started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D.). Despite being novices, the organization managed to overcome mass cynicism and to rewrite several national laws concerning alcohol-related traffic deaths. However, Moms Demand Action had something that M.A.D.D didn't, initially at least — access to social media.
The seed for Moms Demand Action — today a national organization backed by nearly 200,000 members and millions of dollars — was planted when Watts decided that, "I can no longer sit on the sidelines. I am too sad and too angry. . . Don't let anyone tell you we can't talk about this tragedy now. They said the same thing after Virginia Tech, Gabby Gifford and Aurora. The time is now."
The effectiveness of Moms activism has surprised even its founders. They've compelled several national and transnational corporations to challenge lax gun laws. They've also forced elected politicians, through mass mobilizations, to be more accountable on the issue. To be sure, they weren't the first organization to do this. After the 1999 Columbine shootings, American mothers staged a Million Mom March against gun violence. However, no group has risen so far, so fast and provoked so many antagonistic responses from hardcore gun rights advocates.
In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook, it appeared that stricter gun laws, were imminent. Just four months later the popular narrative changed. Although a bill authorizing universal background checks for guns was supported by a majority of U.S. Senators, a Republican filibuster prevented the 60 votes necessary to pass. This was another victory for the National Rifle Association.
Refusing to give up, Moms chose another tactic. In response to gun rights advocates stepping up their campaign of openly carrying weapons in public places, in May 2013 Moms launched a campaign called "Skip Starbucks," on Saturdays, and posted pictures of themselves on Facebook drinking their morning java at other coffee shops, and urged others to do the same. Meanwhile, Watts and Kate Black, a mother from Starbucks' home city of Seattle, wrote an op-ed on citing a shooting at an armed pro-gun rally at a Starbucks in Florida.
."As mothers, we wonder why the company is willing to put children and families in so much danger. Nobody needs to be armed to get a cup of coffee," the women said. When CEO Howard Shultz subsequently announced that firearms were no longer welcomed at Starbucks, he failed to attribute the decision to the campaign waged by Moms, and over 54 Facebook posts, in three months, seen by more than 5.5 million people, along with the collection of thousands of signatures.
"But a few high-profile victories and rapid growth had brought an age-old problem: Moms Demand Action struggled to raise enough money to sustain a core of national and regional leaders. In the summer of 2013, Watts met with Mark Glaze, head of Michael Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns," in Montana. They talked at length as they rode a mountain gondola beneath the expansive vistas near Big Sky, forging a plan to build the furthest reaching operation yet to go toe-to-toe with the NRA. Bloomberg's group had what Moms needed - not just big funds, but also an expert policy shop and a sprawling political network".
Mark Follman, Mother Jones magazine, Sept/Oct, 2014, Pg. 30
High on the list of concerns for Moms is child gun deaths, especially those resulting from negligence. Many states in the U.S. refuse to prosecute these cases. Watts says, "All too often, D.A.s (district attorneys) are loath to get involved, saying the family has suffered enough." She recalls M.A.D.D.'s efforts to prosecute and penalize drunk-drivers who "accidentally" kill. Moms seeks to punish gun owners who are negligent in their use or storage of firearms. Watts cites statistics revealing that 43 percent of U.S. households with kids have at least one unsecured gun. Also, in 2013, over 50 children died handling loaded weapons.
"Thirty-thousand Americans die from guns every year, but assume that even just five people are severely affected by each person's death and now the damage afflicts 150,000 more Americans annually. Over 10 years that's a total of 1.8 million people. Now add the number of gunshot victims each year who survive - one Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate suggests at least 64,000, not including accidents - and the overall number of Americans directly affected by shootings each decade climbs to 5 million."
Follman, MJ, Pg 71
Watts points out that the ultimate solution to this problem rests with lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Included in the 30,000-plus gun deaths across the nation are the high number of killings in the nation's capital city. Fifty-four percent of gunshots in D.C. were within 1,000 feet of a school building, according to a recent Urban Institute report.
"Starting today (7/12/14) we will respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target, even in communities where it is permitted by law . . . This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief. Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create."
The Target Company
"Moms are thankful that Target responded quickly to the call of nearly 400,000 Americans and asked customers to keep their firearms at home. Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys. Like Chipotle, Starbucks, Face, Jack-in-the-box, Sonic and Chili's, Target recognized that moms are a powerful customer base and political force - and you can respect the 2nd Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time," Watts said in a statement.
Predictably, there has been an aggressive backlash to Moms Demand Action from gun rights advocates. Vicious epithets have been hurled at the mothers, like "Bloomberg's Whores" and vulgar references to a woman's anatomy. Also,Watts has been the recipient of hate mail and emails consisting of ominous threats, such as raping and murdering her kids and herself.
"They call me every horrific name you've ever heard, and say they hope if I die, it gets televised, so they can watch," she says. Watts has alerted the FBI to specific threats and has noted publicly that her home is protected by dogs and an alarm system."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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