Can a group of passionate mothers defeat the nation’s largest pro-gun institution and persuade elected officials to enact laws that will reduce gun violence and save lives? It’s too early to tell, but this weekend the two groups will come face to face outside the NRA’s annual convention.
On one side of this version of the classic David versus Goliath battle, we have “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.” This small, but passionate group is led by Shannon Watts, a 43-year-old mother of five who started the organization via a simple Facebook page after the horrific shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012.
On the other side, we have the National Rifle Association—an organization with an annual operating budget of approximately $250 million, 4 million-plus members, and a legion of federal and state elected officials in their corner.
This weekend, the battle will commence when the “Moms” and their allies demonstrate outside the NRA Convention in Indianapolis. Watts explained that this protest will feature “Moms, gun violence survivors, domestic violence prevention advocates, faith leaders, gun owners and other gun safety advocates” speaking out for “sensible reforms to end the gun violence that kills 86 Americans every day.”
Watts made it clear the NRA is, indeed, their adversary. “Our goal is to bring attention to the ways in which the NRA’s leadership and its lobbyists have fundamentally distorted the facts when it comes to gun violence in America,” she says, before adding that they’ve created “the false impression that people’s Second Amendment rights are under threat.”
But what makes Watts and her group’s efforts even more challenging is that the NRA is no longer just a place for gun enthusiasts. It’s become one-stop shopping for conservative red meat on a host of issues. And worst of all, it features some rancid red meat, with speakers who have a history of spewing homophobic, Islamaphobic, anti-immigrant and even birther comments. It’s really the greatest hits of right-wing crap all in one place—and they’re armed.
This year’s NRA speakers include Sarah Palin, who is not only a Tea Party darling, but has in the past embraced the birther crap of Donald Trump and has described immigration reform as “pandering” and “rewarding the rule breakers.”
Ironically, former Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North is another featured speaker at the NRA Convention. I say ironic because the right loves to call President Obama “lawless,” meanwhile they are showcasing a person who circumvented U.S. laws with his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal.
The NRA will also feature Franklin Graham at its prayer breakfast.
This is a man whose views go far beyond opposing marriage equality. Graham recently praised Russia’s notorious anti-gays laws as an effort “simply to protect children.” He astoundingly even praised Vladimir Putin for his leadership in enacting the anti-gay laws and criticized President Obama for sending gay athletes to the Sochi Olympics as being another example of America lacking in “moral leadership.”
Unsurprisingly, Graham is also not a fan of Islam. (Typically, those who have issues with gays also tend not to like Muslims either.) Graham has called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” In 2011, without a shred of proof, he alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood had “infiltrated every level of our government.”
The result is an NRA that has more supporters than its 4 million members. By showcasing voices of intolerance, the NRA is—intentionally or not—attracting non-gun enthusiasts on the right and fringe right to its side.
So, can the mothers of America overcome all this? Well, they’ve got a few things in their favor. For one, the organization is modeled after the very successful Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) that did, in fact, see legislative success in combating drunk driving. (Of course, MADD wasn’t being countered by a powerful pro-drunk driving lobbying group, but mothers are persuasive—just ask anyone who ever had a mom!)
In addition, “Moms” recently joined forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns to launch “Everytown for Gun Safety.” This little group of moms is part of a bigger umbrella organization funded in part by former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg’s contribution of $50 million.
The group, which now has chapters in all 50 states, is planning rallies at statehouses around the country. Plus, they will be meeting with members of Congress so that these elected officials hear more than one side of the issue. As Watts noted: “From now on, before politicians cast a vote, they will…hear our voters loud and clear.”
When asked if she thinks they can really beat the NRA, Watts commented: “We are the most organized and passionate counterweight the Washington gun lobby has ever seen.” She also explained that they have public opinion on their side on issues like universal background checks, which is supported by close to 90 percent of Americans.
Only time will tell if they will prevail, but these passionate activists sure are some tough-loving mothers. In fact, they turn out to be the Mom versions of “David.”