Taking on the NRA

07.07.14

Mom Gun-Control Group Fights the NRA With Its Own Weapon

A post-Sandy Hook moms’ gun-control group has put out a new NRA-style questionnaire to gauge politicians’ commitment to gun-safety measures.

Gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and its parent organization, Everytown for Gun Safety (funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg), released a questionnaire today to gauge politicians’ commitment to enacting new gun safety measures. The group says the survey—obviously similar to the National Rifle Association’s—is the first step in their campaign to elect officials who support gun control. Along with candidates’ answers, the group will consider “prior statements, voting histories and co-sponsorships and will use this information to mobilize Americans to support or oppose candidates” in the midterms and beyond, the group said in a statement.

Since Moms Demand Action’s birth following the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the group has kept the issue of guns in the national conversation—a feat in and of itself considering the tendency of our national interest in gun control to wax with tragedies, and wane in the spaces between them. Moms Demand Action is best known for its social media campaigns to pressure businesses like Chipotle and Target to ban the open carry of firearms in stores, while Everytown has focused on lobbying for gun control measures at the state level and publishing reports on what is implied as the impact of lax gun laws including school shootings and violence against women.

The 10-question survey asks if candidates support or oppose legislation on issues like background checks, banning of gun ownership by convicted stalkers or domestic abusers, and safe storage to prevent access to children. It starts with, “Do you agree: we can both do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and protect the rights of responsible, law-abiding people?”    

The survey mirrors—nearly the same, but in reverse—the one given to candidates by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The association’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, has been using a questionnaire to decide which candidates to throw the NRA’s weight behind for four decades now.

Though the NRA doesn’t release its surveys to the public, examples are available online. One was recently attached to a letter from A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor in Idaho, who refused to fill out the questionnaire, writing that its “leading questions and multiple-choice answers…allow for only polarizing and extreme positions.” 

The 10-question survey asks if candidates support or oppose legislation on issues like background checks and banning of gun ownership by convicted stalkers or domestic abusers.

In terms of capital, the NRA couldn’t ask for a better-armed opponent. The NRA spent nearly $20 million to influence races in the 2012 election, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and $6.7 million in the most recent midterms, according The Washington Post. NRA-endorsed candidates won 80 percent of those races. In contrast, Bloomberg has pledged $50 million alone from his personal fortune to support Everytown’s gun control initiatives.

Since the launch of the group’s “Gun Sense Voter Campaign” in April, Everytown says more than 650,000 people have signed a pledge to “to support local, state and federal candidates who will fight for common-sense laws to reduce gun violence.” According to the most recent national poll, 92 percent of Americans—and gun owners—support universal background checks and 89 percent support restrictions on purchases by people with mental illness. But, in a disconnect, only half support "stricter gun control laws." In acknowledgement, Everytown’s questionnaire—which the group has put online—focuses on specific gun control initiatives and avoids charged language like “gun control” in favor of “common-sense laws to reduce gun violence.”