Last week was the anniversary of the horrific Newtown shootings. That was when I saw an item on Mother Jones that prompted this posting. That item described the work of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA). This group was founded after the Newtown massacre and it has had several important victories, largely by following the example of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It aims to change the gun culture in America, just as MADD did in the 1980s when driving while intoxicated was still taken for granted. Thirty years ago most Americans saw drunk-driving deaths as “a problem you had to live with.” MADD helped to redefine them as crimes. It put pressure not on political leaders and on the liquor industry by “turning a spotlight on kids who had been killed.”
Some years ago I served on the National Board of MADD Canada. Today I am convinced that the strategies MADD used are equally well suited for MDA’s vital mission to bring to bring some sanity to the gun scene in the US. Largely, those strategies focus heavily on the wise use of the media, and nowadays, the web, combining human interest stories with solid statistics. In each case the major focus is politicians and all successes are brought to the attention of the media. MDA now has over 200,00o members, a sizeable war chest, and has joined forces with other influential groups such as Bloomberg’s ‘Mayors Against Illegal Guns.’
So far MDA has persuaded some restaurant chains, internet companies, and retailers to oppose lax gun laws. They must be on the right track because they have elicited strong responses from many gun rights activists. MDA members and leaders have been called “Bloomberg’s whores,” “thugs with jugs,” and far worse. They get menacing phone calls and see violent images posted online.
When Sandy Hook failed to bring about substantial changes in gun laws MDA focused on corporations like Starbucks where guns were being ‘openly carried’. Moms response was to urge members to “#SkipStarbucks” and post pictures of themselves having coffee elsewhere. Starbucks changed its policy after Facebook posts resulted in a petition with over 40,000 signatures. Other similar successes offer hope that large-scale changes in attitude will come before the next massacre.
One experienced Washington lobbyist stated, “Changes to the culture are more important than legal changes in some ways. This sends a message that having guns everywhere makes people uncomfortable, which goes directly against the gun lobby’s agenda—to normalize having them everywhere.”