This is the 1,000th column posted on this website and I can’t think of a better topic for this special space.
The day after the Sandy Hook massacre, a stay-at-home mom and corporate media expert sat down at her kitchen table in Indianapolis and sent out a message on her Facebook page asking people to join a group that would begin promoting a ‘common sense’ message about guns. What Shannon Watts meant then and still means now when she talks about common sense is the idea that there is simply no reason why anyone, gun owner or otherwise, should find it difficult to accept the idea that guns should never be used to hurt yourself or anyone else.
Shannon’s Facebook page quickly became Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and the purpose of this column is to give Shannon and her whole gang a loud shout-out for what they have accomplished over the last five years. And before any of the gun trolls who monitor my writing come back with the usual crap and nonsense about how Shannon would be ‘nothing’ without Bloomberg’s big bucks, what she and her organization have accomplished since 2012 goes far beyond anything having to do with the fact that Mike helps to foot the bill.
What makes Shannon’s effort so remarkable and so important is not because she agreed to merge her group with Bloomberg’s Everytown organization back in 2014. Money can certainly make life easier but if you don’t spend it in a way that brings results, it wouldn’t really matter how much dough comes. And it’s not as if there was really any precedent for building the kind of organization that Shannon has put together and now actively promotes its agenda in every one of the 50 states. When it comes to grass-roots messaging and organizational activity, until Shannon began her effort, the entire public discussion about guns beyond the Beltway was basically owned by my friends in Fairfax, a.k.a. the NRA.
Why shouldn’t the NRA be a formidable public relations machine for promoting guns? After all, they have been around since right after the Civil War, which is longer than any other organization which promotes any kind of consumer item; hell, the American Automobile Association wasn’t founded until 1902. So when messages from Moms Demand Action began to appear on the internet and women with those red tee-shirts began parading around in front of Wal Mart and the local supermarket or Target stores, all of a sudden a two-sided playing field began to take shape.
A little more than five years since Shannon sat down and started blazing away, Moms now has chapters in all 50 states, and these groups aren’t just an email list or some other digital venue for talking back and forth. Over the coming year, the organization will hold hundreds of public events, and if you want to get an idea of what they did on 2017, you can download and read a very impressive report right here.
Giving Moms a big high-five is not meant in any way to slight the efforts of other gun violence prevention (GVP) groups; I’m always willing and able to help spread the word whenever some folks get together to promote common-sense strategies about guns. But what makes Shannon’s effort so important is her understanding that with all due respect to the importance of laws, public policies and all the rest, making a real difference in terms of gun violence is a cultural issue above all. Forget all the data, all the studies, all the facts, people make up or change their minds when they talk about something to someone else.
Next time you go past a public space where some women are wearing those Moms Demand Action shirts, stop for a moment and notice how they engage other folks who just happen to be walking by. A brief conversation here, a comment or two there, funny how those conversations add up and help pave the way for needed change.
And let’s not forget that with all due respect to Mike and his gezillions, Shannon and the ladies could always use some spare change.