In the week before gun violence in Chicago left 14 people dead and another 68 wounded over the holiday weekend, it’s worth asking what the gun advocate groups were busy doing.
Many were engaged in an all-out assault on mass retailer Target for refusing to ban legal guns in their stores.
Moms Demand Action and Everytown For Gun Safety, the two groups spun out of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s first failed anti-gun group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, took their fight to — where else — Twitter.
Sending a flurry of tweets urging people to boycott Target using countless hashtags, Moms Demand Action flaunted photos of consumers buying their paper plates and hotdogs elsewhere. When Target finally capitulated, MomsDemand was victorious, retweeting supporters like CT Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who posted, “I’m shopping @Target today because they’re doing the right thing on guns.”
Then, over the weekend, the very same weekend that Chicago was erupting in gun violence, ABCNews aired a package featuring Moms founder Shannon Watts proudly touting her wins over Target and other retailers. “They listened to us when we said we don’t want loaded assault weapons around our children when we’re shopping.”
It’s a good thing Moms and Everytown are on the case, keeping us all safe from the army of legal gun owners who shop at Target, drink lattes at Starbucks and eat barbacoa burritos at Chipotle.
This is what counts as “productive” if you are a gun control advocate today. Watts may be proud of her group’s efforts, but the sad reality is that today’s anti-gun activists are nothing more than political operatives, no more noble than any other kind of lobbyist, and generally less informed about their own issue.
They may have been operatives by trade, who wandered into gun control as a lucrative issue to back. Others might start as victims of gun violence but by virtue of the strategies, tactics and channels they employ, they end up investing a lot more in gun politics than they do in meaningful community outreach, the real bedrock of activism, the kind that doesn’t rely on hashtags.
The problem with gun violence isn’t the woman with a concealed carry license at her suburban Target or Chipotle, or the prepper in rural Kansas with a handgun collection. And it isn’t the legal gun owner in Westchester County, N.Y., whose name and address was published by the Journal News after the Sandy Hook shooting.
And yet this is where gun control groups are directing their resources. This and, of course, toward the NRA. Moms and Everytown’s latest initiative is to score politicians on their commitments to gun control, the way the NRA scores on commitment to gun rights.