MoJo Author Feeds: Mark Follman | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en America's Many Fatal School Shootings Since Newtown <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Classes were just about to begin on the morning of October 21, 2013, when 12-year-old Mason Davis heard shots ring out on the basketball court. A teacher lay sprawled on the ground as Davis started to run for the school building. Then he saw his friend and classmate, 12-year-old Jose Reyes. "Please don't shoot me," Davis said, "please don't shoot me." That's when Reyes pointed the 9 mm Ruger at him and pulled the trigger.</p> <p>Davis, who was wounded in the abdomen, was lucky to survive <a href="" target="_blank">the attack</a> at Sparks Middle School in Nevada, as was another student who'd been shot in the shoulder. Forty-five-year-old math teacher Michael Landsberry did not make it. Reyes, who reportedly had been bullied and suffered from mental-health problems, also used the semi-automatic handgun he'd taken from his parents' home that morning to put a bullet in his own head.</p> <p>In the two years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, no school shooting has claimed as many lives, nor ones as young, as on that terrible day. But fatal gun attacks at schools and on college campuses remain a fixture of American life. They have occurred once every five weeks on average since Sandy Hook, including two attacks&mdash;one in <a href="" target="_blank">Santa Monica</a> and another near <a href="" target="_blank">Seattle</a>&mdash;in which four or more victims were killed.</p> <p>With an investigation drawing on data from dozens of news reports, <em>Mother Jones </em>has identified and analyzed <a href="#data">21 deadly school shootings</a> in the past two years. The findings include:</p> <ul><li>A total of 32 victims were killed (not including shooters).</li> <li>11 victims were injured.</li> <li>5 shooters were killed (including four who committed suicide, and one shot dead by police).</li> <li>The school shootings occurred across 16 states.</li> <li>14 attacks occurred at K-12 schools, and 7 occurred on college or university campuses.</li> </ul><p>During the same period, there have been dozens of other gun incidents on school grounds that caused injuries, as well as seven additional cases where someone committed suicide with a firearm, but no one else died. (See <a href="" target="_blank">this report</a> from the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, which contains a broad list of firearm incidents at schools.) A handful of the cases we analyzed involved shooters who appeared to have mental-health problems, <a href="" target="_blank">a prominent factor</a> in the <a href="" target="_blank">mass shootings database</a> we compiled for another investigation. (The attack last May near the University of California-Santa Barbara is not included here because although college students were among the victims it did not take place on campus.) Several other cases appeared related to gang violence or domestic disputes. Though it's not clear in all cases what type of firearms were used, in several the perpetrators wielded shotguns, semi-automatic handguns, and <a href="" target="_blank">AR 15-style assault rifles</a>.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/zawahri630_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A surveillance photo of the shooter entering the Santa Monica College library </strong>Santa Monica Police/ZUMA</div> </div> <p>Gun violence has regularly been at the political forefront since Newtown. While Congress failed to pass a background check bill four months after the devastation, state lawmakers nationwide approved <a href="" target="_blank">more than a hundred laws</a> either strengthening or weakening restrictions on firearms in the first year after Sandy Hook alone. Gun rights activists have responded by <a href="" target="_blank">provoking controversy</a> with <a href="" target="_blank">open-carry demonstrations</a>, while on the gun control side, <a href="" target="_blank">major new players have emerged</a>. Lockdown drills have become common at schools, and many have added armed personnel or even tested <a href="" target="_blank">active-shooter detection systems</a> that use technology deployed in war zones. In November, for the first time in 15 years, a state decided by popular vote to require <a href="" target="_blank">universal background checks</a> for gun buyers.</p> <p id="data">All the same, the toll has gone on, with <a href="" target="_blank">hundreds of children shot to death</a>, daily violence routinely claiming <a href="" target="_blank">multiple victims</a>, and mass shootings becoming <a href="" target="_blank">three times more frequent</a>.</p> <p><br><span class="section-lead">Below is the dataset</span> from the investigation. View it in its entirety by <a href="" target="_blank">clicking here for the Google spreadsheet</a>. Research was contributed by <em>Mother Jones</em> editorial fellow <a href="" target="_blank">Bryan Schatz</a>.</p> <p><iframe height="600" src=";headers=false" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones'<em> reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our award-winning <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p></body></html> Politics Congress Crime and Justice Guns Top Stories Tue, 09 Dec 2014 11:00:07 +0000 Mark Follman 266106 at Washington Voters Just Passed the Gun Law Congress Couldn't <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Most postelection coverage has focused on how Republicans drubbed Democrats in the battle for Congress, but there was another resounding victory on Tuesday worth noting, and it wasn't a partisan one. Universal background checks for gun buyers became law in Washington state, the first such measure to be passed by popular vote in any state in recent memory.</p> <p>And popular it was, supported by 60 percent of voters. They agreed that buying weapons at gun shows or on the internet should no longer be possible <a href="" target="_blank">without basic regulations</a>. "Our goal has never been about finding a single solution that will end gun violence once and for all," <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> Seattle Mayor Ed Murray after Initiative 594 passed. "Instead, our goal has been to enact a sound system of commonsense rules that can, by working in concert, make an enormous difference." Murray noted that states with expanded background checks<strong>&mdash;</strong>now 18 of them, plus Washington, DC&mdash;have fewer <a href="" target="_blank">women killed</a> in domestic-violence situations, fewer law enforcement officers shot, and fewer suicides with firearms. The editors of the <em>Seattle Times</em> <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> the wide margin of victory showed that "voters feel the grim, relentless toll of gun violence."</p> <p>It was fresh on their minds. Public gun rampages&mdash;which tend to draw outsized media attention&mdash;have been <a href="" target="_blank">on the rise the last several years</a>, with the latest taking place at a Seattle-area high school on October 24. Three victims died, two others were gravely injured, and the perpetrator shot himself to death, as <a href="" target="_blank">so many of them do</a>. Local polling right at that time appeared to show <a href="" target="_blank">an increase in support</a> (which had already been strong) for I-594. The last time a similar measure was passed by popular vote was <a href=",_Initiative_22_%282000%29" target="_blank">in Colorado in 2000</a>, in the wake of the Columbine mass shooting. (It's worth noting that the hardcore gun lobby's opposition in Colorado back then included the same strain of <a href="" target="_blank">Nazi rhetoric</a> that was trotted out in Washington state <a href="" target="_blank">this time</a>.)</p> <p>Washington state's vote was the clearest electoral test yet beyond Congress for the gun reform movement that <a href="" target="_blank">rose out of the devastation</a> at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago. Everytown for Gun Safety, backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by former congresswoman and mass shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords, <a href=";utm_medium=feed&amp;" target="_blank">both devoted</a> major funds and other strategic assets to the fight. The primary stated goal of these groups is to function as a formidable counterweight to the National Rifle Association and its political influence; if the passage of I-594 (as well as the defeat of a counter initiative) is any indication, they've gained some serious momentum in their less than 24 months of existence. Everytown now has 2.5 million supporters, according to the organization's former executive director Mark Glaze. "The movement now has plenty of money and plenty of talent, and that's a big difference from just a few years ago," Glaze told me on Wednesday. "As the NRA will tell you, intensity trumps money much of the time. In this case they lost on both counts."</p> <p>The NRA and its allies also spent millions on the fight&mdash;and feared the outcome they now face. "We are very concerned that [Bloomberg's group] will replicate this and we will have ballot initiatives like this one across the country," a NRA spokesperson <a href="" target="_blank">told</a> the<em> Olympian</em> just prior to the vote.</p> <p>The gun lobby has long tapped allies in statehouses to block firearms regulations, but the Washington experience may have just revealed a potent threat to that modus operandi. Next up? Glaze says Nevada, Arizona, Oregon, and Maine are strong prospects. Ballot initiatives tend to be expensive (and aren't allowed in all states), but expanded background checks look to be a solid bet, consistently drawing overwhelming support in national polls. Circumventing state legislators may not be the easiest route, notes Glaze, "but when a majority of people want something badly enough, they can still get it."</p> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones'<em> reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our award-winning <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p> <div style="width: 1px; height: 1px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font: 10pt sans-serif; text-align: left; text-transform: none; overflow: hidden;"><br> Read more here:</div></body></html> Politics Elections Guns Money in Politics The Right Top Stories Wed, 05 Nov 2014 22:14:56 +0000 Mark Follman 264166 at Yes, Mass Shootings Are Occurring More Often <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><center> <div class="inline" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/harvard_timeline_AJ_2.png" width="630px"></a></div> </center> <div class="caption"> <center><strong>(<a href="" target="_blank">Click to enlarge</a>)</strong></center> </div> <p><em><strong>Editor's note: </strong>A version of this article first appeared in the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Los Angeles Times</a>.</p> <p>It's not a matter of if, but when and where the next mass shooting will happen: It might take place at another shopping mall, or college campus, or suburban office building, and probably not long from now. Yet, as these disturbing incidents keep appearing in the headlines, various commentators have argued that mass shootings are not on the rise.</p> <p>That may be true if you look at all mass shootings, including gang killings and in-home violence stemming from domestic abuse. But <a href="" target="_blank">new research from the Harvard School of Public Health</a> demonstrates that mass shootings in public have become far more frequent. The Harvard findings are also corroborated by a separate report issued recently by the FBI.</p> <p>After a heavily armed young man gunned down 12 people and wounded 58 others at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012, my colleagues at <em>Mother Jones</em> and I began examining how often mass shootings in public places occurred. Finding no reliable answer, we set about gathering <a href="" target="_blank">three decades of data</a>. We discovered that such shootings were on the rise&mdash;even before the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Washington Navy Yard, Ft. Hood, and near UC-Santa Barbara.</p> <p>Though mass shootings make an outsize psychological impact, they are a tiny fraction of the nation's overall gun violence, which takes more than 30,000 lives annually. Rather than simply tallying the yearly number of mass shootings, Harvard researchers Amy Cohen, Deborah Azrael, and Matthew Miller determined that their frequency is best measured by tracking the time between each incident. This method, they explain, is most effective for detecting meaningful shifts in relatively small sets of data, such as the 69 mass shootings we documented. Their analysis of the data shows that from 1982 to 2011, mass shootings occurred every 200 days on average. Since late 2011, they found, mass shootings have occurred at triple that rate&mdash;every 64 days on average. (For more details on their analytical method, <a href="" target="_blank">see this related piece</a>.)</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/shootingsSince2011-mfms11.png" width="630px"></a> <div class="caption"><strong>(<a href="" target="_blank">Click to enlarge</a>)</strong></div> </div> <p>There has never been a clear, universally accepted definition of "mass shooting." The <a href="" target="_blank">data</a> we collected includes attacks in public places with four or more victims killed, a baseline established by the FBI a decade ago. We excluded mass murders in private homes related to domestic violence, as well as shootings tied to gang or other criminal activity. (Qualitative consistency is crucial, even though any definition can at times seem arbitrary. For example, by the four-fatalities threshold neither the attack at Ft. Hood in April nor the one in Santa Barbara in May qualifies as a "mass shooting," with three victims killed by gunshots in each incident.) A report from the FBI on gun rampages, issued in late September, includes attacks with fewer than four fatalities but otherwise uses very similar criteria.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">FBI report</a>, which includes 160 "active shooter" cases between 2000 and 2013, notes explicitly that it is not a study of mass shootings. Rather, it analyzes incidents in which shooters are "actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people" in a public place, regardless of the number of casualties. But within the FBI's 160 cases is a subset of 44 mass shootings (in which four or more were murdered) nearly identical to <em>Mother Jones</em>' data set from the same time period. The Harvard researchers underscore that the FBI had access to law enforcement sources that <em>Mother Jones</em> did not: "That the results of the two studies are so similar reinforces our finding that public mass shootings have increased."</p> <p>James Alan Fox, a widely quoted researcher from Northeastern University, has argued that mass shootings are not on the rise, and that they are too rare to merit significant policy changes. As he put it recently in <a href="" target="_blank">an interview</a> with CNN's Jake Tapper: "We treasure our personal freedoms in America, and unfortunately, occasional mass shootings, as horrific as they are, is one of the prices that we pay for the freedoms that we enjoy."</p> <p>But in drawing his conclusions, Fox relies on overly broad data. His study is misguided, the Harvard researchers say, because it conflates public mass shootings with a larger set of mass murders that are "contextually distinct," primarily those in private homes. According to <a href="" target="_blank">data</a> compiled by <em>USA Today</em>, there have been at least 95 domestic-violence-related mass shootings since 2006 alone. These crimes are no less awful (and we've <a href="" target="_blank">reported on</a> <a href="" target="_blank">them</a> <a href="" target="_blank">too</a>). But mass murders in schools and shopping malls are a different monster in terms of impact on public safety and the complicated policy questions they raise&mdash;not least how they might be stopped.</p> <p>In response to the Harvard research, Fox insisted that mass shootings should not be distinguished categorically by their circumstances. "To the victims who are slain, it hardly matters whether they were killed in public or in a private home," <a href="" target="_blank">he told</a> the <em>Huffington Post.</em> "Nor does it matter if the assailant was a family member or a stranger. They are just as dead."</p> <p>But the question of whether public mass shootings can be prevented hinges on understanding the complex factors behind them&mdash;which starts with tracking these shootings accurately. That, at least, is a role that the federal government is poised to assume: Last year President Obama signed the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act, which authorizes the Department of Justice to investigate mass shootings in public places. Notably, the law defines the threshold for these crimes as three or more people murdered&mdash;which means eventually we'll have data showing that the scope of the problem is far greater than we've already seen.</p> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones'<em> reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our award-winning <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p></body></html> Politics Crime and Justice Guns Media Top Stories Tue, 21 Oct 2014 10:05:06 +0000 Mark Follman 262411 at How the NRA Degrades and Objectifies Women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Recently the National Rifle Association has aimed to boost its appeal among women. Last year it launched its "new and improved" <a href="" target="_blank">NRA Women's TV Network</a>, and it has hired several accomplished female gun enthusiasts as <a href="" target="_blank">official NRA News commentators</a>. Women were <a href="" target="_blank">a focus</a> at its annual meeting in April, and next month the NRA <a href="" target="_blank">will host</a> a Women's Leadership Forum Executive Summit, which promises to "celebrate the role of women as powerful leaders."</p> <p>But for women who oppose the NRA, it's a different story.</p> <p>In the latest issue of its flagship magazine, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>America's 1<sup>st</sup> Freedom</em></a>, the NRA targets Shannon Watts, founder of the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, with an article that has been widely <a href="" target="_blank">criticized</a> as <a href="" target="_blank">sexist</a> for how it addresses her career and family life. Other recent NRA content seems to be doing the gun lobby no favors with women either, including videos that liken assault rifles to "hot women," and commentary about sexual assault on college campuses that veers into victim blaming.</p> <p>The premise of the lengthy article attacking Watts, authored by conservative legal scholar and gun rights lobbyist Dave Kopel, is that she is a fraud&mdash;an operative fronting a political group, rather than the homemaker turned grassroots activist she says she is. The art spread for the piece depicts Watts as a paper doll figure in high heels, with a 1950s-style kitchen apron and domestic accessories including a feather duster, iron, sponge, and spatula.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Sexism-INSIDE-FW.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>From the September 2014 issue of <em>America's 1st Freedom</em></strong></div> </div> <p>Watts started Moms Demand Action in December 2012 in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre; a mother of five, she'd left her position as a corporate PR executive four years earlier to do consulting from her suburban Indianapolis home. But a woman with Watts' career success, Kopel proposes, can't possibly be a real stay-at-home mom. "The registered address for her PR firm was a residence, so presumably she was running her PR firm out of her house," he writes. "Her children were all well into school-age or older, so it's likely that she had plenty of time to run her business during the day." Kopel also notes that in 2010 Watts and her husband had opened an art gallery. "There's nothing wrong with that, except 'running a streetfront art gallery plus public relations business from my house' is not the impression conveyed by 'stay-at-home mom.'"</p> <p>The article digresses into familiar points of debate between the gun lobby and the gun violence prevention movement&mdash;what constitutes an "assault weapon," how often good guys with guns really stop bad guys, and so forth. But its core message is clear, with Kopel concluding that "the willfully gullible media persist in portraying [Moms Demand Action] as an authentic social movement and Watts as a homemaker who just decided to do something about guns."</p> <p>With <a href="" target="_blank">the impact</a> that Moms has made on the national debate, it's unsurprising to see the NRA go after Watts. Yet the magazine piece "is a strange tactic," Watts says. "They're courting women as customers, but at the same time they're degrading women and mothers," she told me. "For some reason the NRA thinks it's the arbiter of what makes a good mom, or a real stay-at-home mom, which has nothing to do with guns or gun safety."</p> <p>Kopel stands by his skepticism that Watts was a stay-at-home mom "at least according to the dictionary definitions," he told me in an email, citing the term from the Merriam-Webster and MacMillan dictionaries. "Nothing in my article disapproved of women or men being PR professionals or stay-at-home parents," he added. Kopel also noted that he was not involved in creating the art for the piece.</p> <p>The editor in chief of <em>America's 1<sup>st</sup> Freedom,</em> Mark Chesnut, did not respond to my requests for comment, nor did&nbsp;Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA's director of public affairs.</p> <p>The implication of the article was not lost on a certain segment of the NRA's audience. Shortly after it was published, <em>America's 1<sup>st</sup> Freedom</em> <a href="" target="_blank">promoted a piece</a> on its Facebook page about Moms Demand Action "desperately bullying Kroger" over <a href="" target="_blank">that company's gun policy</a>. One commenter responded: "'Moms Demand Action' more like fat housewives that need to get a good dicking and get their ass back in the kitchen."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/%22good%20dicking%22.png"></a></div> <p>"Women are generally idiots," said another.</p> <p>"Somebody needs to point out to these bitches that people who legally buy guns are not the ones going out and committing crimes," said another.</p> <p>"They need to change their name to everyday nagging wives," said another. "That's all they do. Seriously annoying."</p> <p>In a recent <a href="" target="_blank">in-depth profile of the group</a>, I detailed how Watts created a Facebook page the day after Sandy Hook and quickly attracted supporters from all over the country. I met with and interviewed more than a dozen of the organization's leaders, from states including Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Colorado, Michigan, and Washington. Many are working moms. Several are gun owners. One is a former cop.</p> <p>"What the NRA fails to grasp is that mothers are allowed to be multi-dimensional," a working mom who blogs under the handle Mary Tyler Mom <a href="" target="_blank">wrote in response</a> to Kopel's piece. "We are allowed to be competent care providers and homemakers and still hella talented as gun safety advocates."</p> <p>Other recent commentary from NRA media personalities may also register poorly with women. Earlier this month, NRA radio host Cam Edwards spoke with <em>Washington Examiner </em>opinion writer Ashe Schow about how colleges and universities have gotten too aggressive in dealing with sexual assault on campus, suggesting that they are "encouraging victimhood" and going after male students unfairly. "It's beyond political correctness," Edwards said.</p> <p>"So many of these cases," Schow said, "come down to two people being drunk at a party hooking up, and then somebody, usually the girl, regretting it the next morning."</p> <p>"Yup, absolutely," Edwards replied.</p> <center><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="video-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="" width="480"></iframe></center> <p id="beautyshots">The NRA also rolled out two videos this summer fantasizing about attractive young women as, literally, assault rifles. A video titled "<a href="" target="_blank">Beauty Shots</a>," from NRA News commentator Colion Noir, "personifies one of his favorite firearms in female form." His voiceover describes an alluring, adventurous woman as she poses in workout gear, swims in a pool, and gazes intently into the camera; at the climax of the video Noir declares, "She is: Daniel Defense M4-A1." To some the video was simply a head-scratcher, but it also drew rebuke, not least for debuting <a href="" target="_blank">just three days</a> after a heavily armed college student committed mass murder in Santa Barbara, driven by <a href="" target="_blank">his rage at attractive young women</a>.</p> <center><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" mozallowfullscreen="" src="//" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="500"></iframe></center> <p>Noir discussed a similar video he made, released a couple of weeks later, with fellow NRA personalities Amy Robbins and Darren Lasorte, on the set of his show. "The HK MR556 is that gun," Noir says, "like that girl who's unbelievably attractive, she has this presence about her that seems untouchable and she's not apologetic about her beauty."</p> <p>"I like the comparison with the woman&mdash;the hot woman&mdash;but explain a little bit more please," Lasorte says.</p> <p>"The MR566 is one of those guns&hellip;it's very easy to hate it," Noir says, "because it's unapologetically what it is. It's heavy, it's expensive as hell."</p> <p>"Sounds like some of my recent experience in Vegas," Lasorte laughs, "like this past weekend."</p> <p>Robbins covers her face with her hands, all three of them now laughing. "But you still want to have fun with them," Lasorte adds, "and they're a little dangerous!"</p> <center><iframe allowfullscreen="" class="video-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" scrolling="no" src="" width="480"></iframe></center> <p>Between this kind of content and the more familiar <a href="" target="_blank">fear-based messaging</a> that NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is using for the homestretch of the 2014 election season, it's unclear whether the NRA has an overarching media strategy. But the challenge it faces with bringing women into the fold remains evident. Over the last several years the roughly 70,000 supporters it says attend its annual convention <a href="" target="_blank">have been</a> <a href="" target="_blank">more than 80 percent male</a>, despite a NRA marketing director <a href="" target="_blank">hyping an expected jump</a> in female attendance this year. (It remained unchanged, according to the NRA's <a href="" target="_blank">own review</a>.) The most reliable national surveys <a href="" target="_blank">show</a> that household gun ownership is in decline, with male gun owners outnumbering females by a 3-1 margin.</p> <p>But it's not just that women aren't big customers. When it comes to the major political issues like universal background checks for gun buyers, polls consistently show that women of all political stripes overwhelmingly <a href="" target="_blank">disagree with the NRA</a>. It's hard to see how some of the NRA's latest efforts will win many of them over.</p> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones'<em> reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our award-winning <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p></body></html> Politics Guns Media Sex and Gender The Right Top Stories Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:15:06 +0000 Mark Follman 260221 at These Women Are the NRA's Worst Nightmare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/MOMS_E.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A march across the Brooklyn Bridge, June 2014 </strong>John Minchillo/AP</div> </div> <p><span class="section-lead">Kelly Bernado woke</span> to the headlines after working her late shift as an ER nurse in Seattle, and she cried through the day and into the next, the shooting at her own son's high school a year before haunting her all over again. In Houston the morning after it happened, Kellye Burke was on her way to pick up a Christmas tree, her six-year-old son nestled in his car seat, when she saw the large LED road sign publicizing a gun show and felt the urge to scream. In Brooklyn, Kim Russell felt a surge of adrenaline when she heard the news; after choking back the nausea, she began agonizing about what her first-grader would hear at school. She'd never told her daughter about the time when a robber shot her friend to death and wounded her, then pressed the cold muzzle against her forehead as she begged for her life.</p> <p>At home in an Indianapolis suburb the morning following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Shannon Watts, a 41-year-old former public relations executive and mother of five, created <a href="" target="_blank">a Facebook page</a> calling for a march on the nation's capital: "Change will require action by angry Americans outside of Washington, D.C. Join us&mdash;we will need strength in numbers against a resourceful, powerful and intransigent gun lobby." The seed for <a href="" target="_blank">Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America</a>&mdash;today a national organization backed by nearly 200,000 members and millions of dollars&mdash;had been planted. "I started this page because, as a mom, I can no longer sit on the sidelines. I am too sad and too angry," Watts wrote. "Don't let anyone tell you we can't talk about this tragedy now&mdash;they said the same after Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, and Aurora. The time is now."</p> <p>Three days later, five women convened in Brooklyn for a Skype call with Watts and formed the group's first chapter. They felt that <a href="" target="_blank">what happened in Newtown</a> was like another 9/11. None of the women had experience as political activists, but they did remember Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the pioneering grassroots movement of the 1980s that rewrote laws and battled cultural resignation about alcohol-related traffic deaths. They also realized they had an asset that MADD organizers could only have dreamed of: social media. As word of a new effort to confront gun violence sprang up in Facebook feeds, offers flooded in to help launch more chapters, from Virginia and Texas to Kentucky and Colorado.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/MOMS_630x354.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Kim Russell, Lucia McBath, and Erica Lafferty during the NRA's 2014 annual meeting </strong>Everytown for Gun Safety</div> </div> <p>Today, Moms Demand Action has teams on the ground in all 50 states, elbowing their way into policy hearings and working to motivate "gun sense voters" fed up with the carnage. In less than two years, the organization has compelled more than a half-dozen national restaurant chains, internet companies, and retailers to take a stand against lax gun laws, and has joined forces with one of the nation's most deep-pocketed political operators to hold elected leaders to account. Many groups have taken on the nation's 30,000 annual firearm deaths&mdash;and this latest effort bears resemblance to the Million Mom March in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shooting, whose organizers also sought to be "a MADD for guns." But no group has risen so far, so fast, influencing laws, rattling major corporations, and provoking vicious responses from hardcore gun rights activists. With its ambition to turn out a million voters for the November midterms, Moms Demand Action may be emerging as a potent threat to the National Rifle Association's three-decade-long stranglehold on gun politics.<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">If stricter national</span> gun laws seemed imminent in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, just four months later the popular narrative was that any chance for change had been deep-sixed. A majority in the US Senate approved universal background checks for gun buyers, but the bill fell a few votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Once again, the NRA had won.</p> <p>But Moms Demand Action took the fight to another arena&mdash;public opinion, with a special focus on brand-conscious corporate America. After Sandy Hook, Second Amendment activists had stepped up a tradition of openly carrying firearms into Starbucks stores ("open carry" is legal to varying degrees in all but a few states), so in May 2013, Moms launched a campaign urging members to "#SkipStarbucks" on Saturdays and post pictures of themselves having coffee elsewhere. Watts and Kate Beck, a Moms leader in Starbucks' hometown of Seattle, published <a href="" target="_blank">a scathing op-ed</a> on <em> </em>calling out the company's inaction and citing an accidental shooting at a Starbucks in Florida and a rally at another in South Dakota that drew 60 armed activists. "As mothers," they said, "we wonder why the company is willing to put children and families in so much danger. Nobody needs to be armed to get a cup of coffee."</p> <p>When CEO Howard Schultz announced in mid-September that <a href="" target="_blank">firearms were no longer welcome</a> on Starbucks' premises, he declined to discuss the steady pressure applied by Moms, whose 54 Facebook posts over three and a half months had reached more than 5.5 million people and spawned a 40,000-signature petition.</p> <p>Not long after, dozens of men carrying semi-automatic rifles descended on a Dallas restaurant where four Moms members were having lunch. The women took pictures and turned it into a national news story. It was "a public relations disaster" for the open-carry activists, says veteran Republican strategist and <a href="" target="_blank">gun owner Mark McKinnon</a>. "Lesson learned? Moms trump guns."</p> <p>Social media had helped set off a tectonic shift. "Now there's this passionate community of people who can instantly be in touch in a very public and affirming way," says Kristin Goss, a political scientist and author of <em>Disarmed</em>: <em>The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America.</em> "That's a very new thing for this cause." Second Amendment activists have long relied on gun shows, stores, and ranges to rally their faithful, she says, "but for supporters of gun regulations, what's that space&mdash;the emergency room? It's Facebook."</p> <div class="inline inline-left" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/MOMS_K_Shannon-315W.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Shannon Watts </strong>Chang W. Lee/<em>New York Times</em>/Redux</div> </div> <p>But a few high-profile victories and rapid growth had brought an age-old problem: Moms Demand Action struggled to raise enough money to sustain a corps of national and regional leaders. In summer 2013, Watts met with Mark Glaze, head of Michael Bloomberg's <a href="" target="_blank">Mayors Against Illegal Guns</a>, in Montana. They talked at length as they rode a mountain gondola beneath the expansive vistas near Big Sky, forging a plan to build the furthest-reaching operation yet to go toe-to-toe with the NRA. Bloomberg's group had what Moms needed&mdash;not just big funds, but also an expert policy shop and a sprawling political network&mdash;but it lacked what Moms had in spades: grassroots firepower and an appealing image. As one political operative who has worked on the guns issue put it, "If you were desperately trying to rebrand your organization because everybody hates you for taking their cigarettes and sodas and guns, wouldn't you leap at the moms?"</p> <p>As the nation prepared to light anniversary candles for the 20 children and six educators of Sandy Hook in December, the two groups announced their combined operation: <a href="" target="_blank">Everytown for Gun Safety</a>, backed by a whopping $50 million from Bloomberg, who vowed to double the NRA's political spending in 2014. "We were the perfect solution to each other's problems," Glaze, who was Everytown's executive director until this June, told me. Momentum toward reform could have vanished after the background check bill went nowhere, he notes, "as often happens when you sort of lose with your big moment and your advocates in the field fade away. We were determined not to let that happen."</p> <p>There seemed a snowball's chance that Congress would take on guns again, but Moms had other plans. Starting in January it campaigned against Facebook&mdash;where people regularly advertise guns for sale and can easily circumvent background checks for buyers&mdash;soon prompting the site to introduce better protections for minors and <a href="" target="_blank">crack down on potentially illegal sales</a>. In the spring, when Texas open-carry activists showed up armed at national restaurant chains in Dallas and San Antonio, Moms responded with a volley of press appearances, petition drives, photo memes, and hashtags. Guys flaunting loaded assault rifles at Chipotle? Time for #BurritosNotBullets. At Chili's? #RibsNotRifles. At Sonic, America's Drive-In? #ShakesNotShotguns. It took less than two weeks for Chili's and Sonic to <a href="" target="_blank">officially reject firearms</a> at their eateries; in Chipotle's case, just 48 hours in the crosshairs <a href="" target="_blank">was enough</a>.</p> <div><div id="mininav" class="inline-subnav"> <!-- header content --> <div id="mininav-header-content"> <div id="mininav-header-image"> <img src="/files/images/motherjones_mininav/marine-texas-mn.jpg" width="220" border="0"></div> <div id="mininav-header-text"> <p class="mininav-header-text" style="margin: 0; padding: 0.75em; font-size: 11px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1.2em; background-color: rgb(221, 221, 221);"> More MoJo reporting on the Open Carry movement </p> </div> </div> <!-- linked stories --> <div id="mininav-linked-stories"> <ul><span id="linked-story-253126"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/nra-open-carry-guns-backlash-texas"> Fearing Rising Backlash, NRA Urges Gun Activists to Stand Down</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-251606"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/05/guns-bullying-open-carry-women-moms-texas"> Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-252891"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/05/guns-open-carry-texas-harassment-marine-veteran"> Gun Activists With Assault Rifles Harass Marine Vet on Memorial Day</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-253341"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/guns-target-store-open-carry-texas"> Target Gets Drawn Into Gun Rights Battle</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-254451"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/06/guns-target-open-carry-texas-women-corpus-christi"> Target Remains in Crosshairs of Texas Gun Fight</a></li> </span> <span id="linked-story-252611"> <li><a href="/politics/2014/05/guns-open-carry-chilis-sonic-videos"> Gun Activists Flaunting Assault Rifles Get Booted From Chili's and Sonic</a></li> </span> </ul></div> <!-- footer content --> </div> </div> <p>Moms made Target <a href="" target="_blank">the next battleground</a>, gathering images posted by open-carry activists who'd toted their AR-15s in the toy aisles and declared the retailer "very 2A friendly." With Moms' hashtag activism plugged into Everytown's political machinery and mailing list of 1.5 million names, Target headquarters in Minneapolis got hit with 11,000 phone calls and 390,000 petition signatures within a month. Moms also called out Target's new strategic partner The Honest Company (the baby products line from young mom Jessica Alba), staged "stroller jams" at Target stores in Texas and Virginia, and protested outside the company's annual shareholder meeting.</p> <p>Just before July Fourth, the nation's fourth-largest retailer announced that <a href="" target="_blank">firearms were no longer welcome</a> in its 1,789 stores.</p> <p>Last week, Moms launched a six-figure ad campaign targeting <a href="" target="_blank">Kroger</a> over its gun policy, and on Monday, <a href="" target="_blank">Panera Bread</a>&mdash;which approached Moms months ago to discuss the issue&mdash;announced that it does not want firearms brought into its stores.</p> <p>Forcing corporations to take a stand against gun activists is no small feat, says Glaze, an experienced Washington lobbyist. "Changes to the culture are more important than legal changes in some ways," he says. "This sends a message that having guns everywhere makes people uncomfortable, which goes directly against the gun lobby's agenda&mdash;to normalize having them everywhere."<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">"As each fresh shooting Horror</span> is met by the same inaction in Congress, a roiling frustration may be awakening an army of moms who see themselves as outsiders armed only with their clout as voters and agitators." So <a href=",9171,44537-1,00.html" target="_blank">wrote</a> a reporter for <em>Time</em> magazine&mdash;in May 2000, on the eve of the Million Mom March on Washington. The parallels between that grassroots movement and today's are striking. The Columbine massacre in April 1999 had gripped the nation, but it was a rampage at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles four months later that set off the movement, after Donna Dees-Thomases&mdash;a 42-year-old mom and part-time corporate publicist living in New Jersey&mdash;saw news footage of a daisy chain of children being led away from the building. "Think about what those kids saw," Dees-Thomases said in the<em> Los Angeles Times </em>about the attack that left five seriously wounded, including three kindergarten-age boys. (All the victims survived, though the gunman killed a mail carrier elsewhere before the rampage ended.) "I thought, 'Why haven't we done anything?'"</p> <p>The method then was email, internet newsgroups, and an 800 number listed in newspaper ads; soon the Million Mom March had chapters all over the country. They campaigned for "common sense gun laws," and their march on Washington, which drew roughly three-quarters of a million people, included a stroller parade. They soon merged with the long-established <a href="" target="_blank">Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence</a> and fought to shape policy at the state and local levels as well.</p> <p>But where the Million Mom March was limited by its focus on legislation, its agenda soon eclipsed by the election of George W. Bush, and then 9/11, Moms Demand Action has gone a different route. "They've been incredibly creative with campaigns that don't rely upon elected officials, and finding alternative pathways to influence," says Goss, the political scientist. They also have the opportunity of heightened public awareness: A <a href="" target="_blank">spate of mass shootings</a> beginning with Virginia Tech in 2007, Goss says, has given rise to "a critical mass" of survivors and family members devoted to keeping gun violence at the forefront.</p> <p>And Moms has actively recruited them. "One of the real lessons of MADD is that people understand tragedy on a human scale," says Chuck Hurley, its CEO from 2005 to 2010. "Everybody could understand Candy Lightner and her daughter being killed," he says, referring to the organization's founder and her 13-year-old, who was struck by a drunk driver in 1980. "There's no way people can understand 30,000 firearm deaths. The bigger the number, the less real it is."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Moms_group1.jpg"></div> <p>"I think we're absolutely key," Lucia McBath told me in April, outside the packed Indianapolis hotel conference room where a delegation from Moms and Everytown was holding a press conference against the backdrop of the NRA annual convention just a few blocks away. McBath, whose teenage son, <a href="" target="_blank">Jordan Davis</a>, was gunned down in 2012 in a dispute over loud music by a man citing Florida's broad self-defense laws, speaks softly but emphatically. "Mothers know how to get things done," she continued, explaining that they can motivate each other and connect with families in a way no one else can. "A lot of mothers are suffering in this country over the nature of the violence."</p> <p>McBath has been astonished by the outpouring of support in the wake of her son's death. "I feel like I have a whole nation praying for our family, and I'm deeply humbled by that." A fundamental shift on guns is inevitable, she says. "With the tobacco industry&mdash;how many years and how much effort did that take? Or gay rights? To change the culture you have to change the mindset, and that takes time. I know we will succeed."</p> <p>Erica Lafferty was 27 when her mother, Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung, was slain confronting <a href="" target="_blank">Adam Lanza</a>. She took up the cause just three months later. "I could literally hear her voice in my head," Lafferty told me in Indianapolis. "'Child, get out of bed and do something productive.'" After a year of speaking out and lobbying Congress with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, she met Watts&mdash;"she just gives me this mom hug"&mdash;and it struck her: Had the roles been reversed, had she been killed and her mother become an activist, "she absolutely would not be doing what I'm doing," focusing on politicians in Washington. "She'd be doing what Shannon is doing, gathering all of these moms."</p> <p>Confronting child gun deaths&mdash;especially those stemming from negligent storage or use of firearms, which go unprosecuted in many states&mdash;is an obvious imperative for Moms. "It's hugely important to our organization," Watts told me. The strategic promise is also clear: In the early 1980s, most Americans saw drunk-driving deaths as "a problem you had to live with," according to Hurley. Among MADD's crowning achievements was to redefine them as crimes. MADD put relentless pressure not just on political leaders but also on the liquor industry&mdash;in no small part by turning a spotlight on kids who had been killed.</p> <p>Last Christmas Eve in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a man who'd been "messing with" a 9 mm handgun unintentionally shot and killed his two-month-old daughter as she slept in her glider. The coroner ruled the death a homicide, yet local law enforcement officials said they were undecided about pursuing criminal charges. Typically that might've been the end of it, but Moms Demand Action voiced outrage via social media and the local press. Within two weeks the DA announced plans to prosecute. (He said no outside group influenced his decision.)</p> <p>"While we fully support the father being held accountable for this crime, we also acknowledge the horrific grief this family is experiencing," Moms Demand Action said after the charges were announced. "We hope their tragedy can serve as an example that encourages others to be more responsible with their firearms." The father later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment, which could have brought up to 15 years in prison. He got six years' probation and no jail time.</p> <p>Moms also drew attention to a case in February in North Carolina, where a three-year-old boy wounded his 17-month-old sister after finding a handgun that their father&mdash;who wrote a parenting advice column in a local paper&mdash;had left unsecured. (The infant recovered.) "The parents have been punished more than any criminal-justice system can do to them," a captain from the county sheriff's department said soon after the shooting. After Moms swung into action, the father was charged with failure to secure his firearm to protect a minor; his case is pending.</p> <p>"All too often DAs are loath to get involved, saying a family has suffered enough," Watts says, "especially in states where laws are inadequate." But just as MADD battled to tighten drunk-driving standards and stiffen penalties, Moms is pushing to toughen negligence and child-access prevention laws. One study found that 43 percent of homes with guns and kids have at least one unsecured firearm, and in 2013 <a href="" target="_blank">at least 52 children killed themselves or others</a> after coming across loaded guns, a <em>Mother Jones</em> investigation showed. "This idea of 'accidental' gun deaths, when something is truly negligence, has to be remedied," Watts says.</p> <p>Moms Demand Action has also campaigned aggressively for laws to disarm domestic abusers&mdash;legislation categorically opposed by the NRA until it quietly began moderating its stance this past year. Every year more than a million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner, and when a gun is present, the likelihood of their being murdered goes up more than fivefold. Women regularly are shot to death <a href="" target="_blank">even after obtaining court protection orders</a> against their abusers, according to a <em>New York Times</em> investigation last year. The phenomenon was on grim display again in July, when a man who'd had multiple restraining orders against him <a href="" target="_blank">shot to death</a> six of his ex-wife's family members in Texas, including four children. Thanks in part to Moms' lobbying, six states have moved on the issue in 2014, including Wisconsin and Louisiana, where bills were signed by conservative governors Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal.</p> <p>Moms has also chipped away at the status quo by battling state laws that allow people to pack heat in schools or bars and by working with cities to require "social responsibility" measures (such as preventing their products from appearing in video games) from gun manufacturers bidding for lucrative police department contracts.</p> <p>Universal background checks for gun buyers these are not, acknowledges Mark Glaze. But what's one of the first things you have to do if you want to sustain a movement? "You have to rack up some victories."<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">It's no coincidence that</span> from the start Moms Demand Action has been armed with effective slogans and well-orchestrated campaigns against corporations: Watts has deep experience&mdash;from the other side. Before she decided to become a stay-at-home mom in 2008 when her youngest kids started middle school, she spent a decade as a PR executive for large firms, including Monsanto, where part of her role was to defend their controversial GMO products. She also handled crisis communications for corporations at FleishmanHillard; prior to that she'd been an aide to a Democratic Missouri governor and a speechwriter in the state Legislature.</p> <p>All of which her detractors have tried to use against her. "Shannon Watts may be a liar, but she's a <em>professional</em> liar," the editor of <em></em> scoffed recently about her r&eacute;sum&eacute;. Opponents have also invoked her career to declare that she's not a real grassroots mom and denounced her as a "Democratic Party operative." And that's the tame stuff. As Moms' clout has increased, gun rights activists have aggressively targeted its members and leaders, calling them "Bloomberg's whores," "thugs with jugs," and far worse. Watts has been at the receiving end of menacing phone calls and violent images posted online. She gets emails from people threatening to rape and murder her and her children. "They call me every horrific name you've ever heard, and say they hope that if I die it gets televised so they can watch," she told me. (Watts has alerted the FBI to specific threats and has noted publicly that her home is protected by dogs and an alarm system.)</p> <p>For decades the gun rights movement has relied on aggressive rhetoric&mdash;an overbearing government is coming to take your guns&mdash;and during the Obama presidency the NRA's leadership has doubled down on stoking anger among its members. But in its most exaggerated form, and directed at a group of sympathetic women, that rage has created a public relations nightmare for the gun lobby&mdash;particularly in Texas, where Moms Demand Action has 7,000 active members and counting. In late April, <a href="" target="_blank">as I first reported in <em>Mother Jones</em></a>, a veteran NRA board member in Houston confronted the leader of Open Carry Texas, warning that the backlash from flaunting semi-automatic rifles in public was jeopardizing the gun lobby's longtime control of "a massive number of votes" in the Statehouse. The head of Open Carry Texas retorted that the NRA was siding with the "ultraliberal gun-control bullies" of Moms Demand Action. Some members of Open Carry Texas used disturbing intimidation tactics, including <a href="" target="_blank">hounding a Marine veteran</a> through city streets with assault rifles, <a href="" target="_blank">shooting up a naked female mannequin</a>, and publicizing a woman's personal information online and <a href="" target="_blank">exposing her to vicious harassment</a>.</p> <p>By June, the NRA's lobbying wing made an extraordinary move, <a href="" target="_blank">denouncing the Texas activists' demonstrations</a> as "foolishness" and "downright weird." But when the enraged activists cut up their membership cards, <a href="" target="_blank">the NRA beat a fast retreat</a> and apologized.</p> <p>Whipping up gun rights die-hards in recent years may have helped it sway lawmakers and elections. But in the process, the century-and-a-half-old NRA, once known for championing marksmanship, hunting, and gun safety, has all but ceded that legacy. And while most of its members, <a href="" target="_blank">polls</a> <a href="" target="_blank">show</a>, favor gun safety measures such as broader background checks, closing loopholes, and securing guns from the mentally ill, the leadership has stuck to its hardline position.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Moms_group2.jpg"></div> <p>Key to Moms' message is that being a socially responsible gun owner has nothing to do with being anti-gun. In fact, some of the leadership is deeply experienced with firearms. As an ER nurse in Seattle, Moms regional leader Kelly Bernado has cared for patients physically shattered by gun violence&mdash;but as a police officer in the 1990s, she often rolled up on armed suspects and faced split-second decisions with her weapon drawn. "I find the people who carry weapons and think they can be some sort of hero in these situations absolutely ridiculous," she told me. (Though she came "very, very close" in one domestic-violence situation, Bernado never fired on anyone during her career.)</p> <p>Kellye Burke, who grew up in rural Texas in a family tradition of gun ownership dating back to frontier days, says it was the notorious <a href="" target="_blank">"good guys with guns" speech</a> from the NRA's Wayne LaPierre one week after Sandy Hook that drove her to action. "It just personified the sickness and the callousness that has overtaken our country," she says. "The fact that they're still not acknowledging that this is an actual problem&mdash;it's just zero accountability and zero responsibility. And that trickles all the way down to the individual gun person who thinks, 'I can do whatever I want and basically screw everybody else.'"<br> &nbsp;</p> <p><span class="section-lead">The ripple effect that</span> certain gun deaths now have across social media&mdash;from <a href="" target="_blank">Trayvon Martin</a> in Florida to two-year-old <a href="" target="_blank">Caroline Sparks</a> in Kentucky to <a href="" target="_blank">college kids in Santa Barbara</a>&mdash;echoes their comprehensive toll. Thirty-thousand Americans die from guns every year, but assume that even just five people are severely affected by each person's death and now the damage afflicts 150,000 more Americans annually. Over 10 years, that's a total of 1.8 million people. Now add the number of gunshot victims each year who survive&mdash;one Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate suggests at least 64,000, not including accidents&mdash;and the overall number of Americans directly affected by shootings each decade climbs to 5 million.</p> <p>"Newtown concentrated the horror in one place," as Judith Palfrey, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, <a href="" target="_blank">told me</a> at the one-year anniversary. Still, polls show that few Americans vote based on gun policy. The most ambitious goal of Everytown, with Moms Demand Action as the vanguard, is to alter that calculus&mdash;and they may just have a chance. "Moms are an important and powerful constituency that can uniquely tap into the emotion of the electorate," says GOP strategist McKinnon. "At the very least they can get a hearing. Whether or not they can actually mobilize voters, we don't know yet."</p> <p>Leaders of the movement preach patience as well as tenacity. "The NRA has been in this for a very long time, so I don't only see this through the lens of 2014," says Howard Wolfson, a top political adviser to Bloomberg. "This is not a one-time electoral effort."</p> <p>The leading new gun reform groups share the same essential goals, though there are differences on how to achieve them. Americans for Responsible Solutions, the super-PAC and lobbying shop started by former congresswoman and mass-shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, is throwing millions of dollars this year behind 11 Senate and House candidates who back stricter gun laws. However, the group won't target Democrats such as Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas or Mark Begich of Alaska, who voted against the background check bill.</p> <p>Support for allies "is obviously very helpful," Wolfson told me, "but there are two sides to this coin. From our perspective, we also want to make sure the people who oppose gun safety pay an electoral price." In July, Everytown rolled out a 10-point questionnaire for congressional candidates on gun safety priorities; the plan is to reward supporters and go after those who don't measure up&mdash;even if, says Wolfson, that means endangering the slim Democratic majority in the Senate. It's a page straight from the NRA playbook.</p> <p>"This is about building a foundation," Watts says, "and it can't be built on whether you have Democrats or Republicans in office. Many Democrats have shown that they are just as in the pocket of the NRA as their Republican counterparts. This has to transcend political labels."</p> <p>As Watts sees it, that's the only way to defeat the ingrained "nothing happened, nothing will" narrative that so frustrates her and the women who've joined her. "It's such a ridiculous idea that because something doesn't pass in weeks or months that all hope is lost."</p> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones'<em> reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our award-winning <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p></body></html> Politics Longreads Crime and Justice Guns Media Money in Politics Top Stories Tue, 09 Sep 2014 10:00:09 +0000 Mark Follman 257246 at Idaho Professor Accidentally Shoots Himself While Teaching Class <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Allowing college students and faculty to carry <a href="" target="_blank">guns on campus</a> makes everybody safer, right?</p> <p>If you answered that the way the NRA does, then maybe consider what just happened at Idaho State University on Tuesday afternoon: A professor was wounded when the gun he had in his pocket accidentally went off. According to local news outlet KIDK, the professor (who had a concealed-carry permit but hasn't been identified at this point) was in the middle of teaching class when he literally <a href="" target="_blank">shot himself in the foot</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Around 4 p.m. Tuesday, Public Safety received a call about an accidental discharge of a concealed weapon in the Physical Science building. A student said the gun went off in the middle of the class.</p> <p>Police said the small-caliber handgun was in the professor's pants pocket and was not displayed at any time. They said the professor was able to leave of his own accord. He was treated and released from the hospital.</p> </blockquote> <p>In March, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter signed a bill into law allowing permit holders to bring their guns onto public college and university campuses, despite polls showing <a href="" target="_blank">overwhelming opposition</a> from students and education leaders in the state. As the <em>Idaho Statesman</em> noted at the time, "Aside from perhaps agriculture, the NRA is the most powerful interest group in the Idaho Republican Party."</p> <p><em>How did a 9-year-old girl end up <a href="" target="_blank">killing with an Uzi</a>? And why did the NRA <a href="" target="_blank">promote fun for kids with guns</a> in the aftermath? See <a href="" target="_blank">all of our latest coverage here</a>, and our award-winning <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></p> <div style="width: 1px; height: 1px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font: 10pt sans-serif; text-align: left; text-transform: none; overflow: hidden;"><br> Read more here:</div></body></html> MoJo Education Guns Top Stories Wed, 03 Sep 2014 16:45:31 +0000 Mark Follman 259591 at In Wake of Arizona Uzi Killing, NRA Tweets About Kids Having Fun With Guns <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There's no shortage of grim gun news in the United States, including numerous <a href="" target="_blank">killings involving children</a>, but there was something particularly disturbing about an incident on Monday in which a 9-year-old girl accidentally shot her instructor to death with an Uzi. The tragedy unfolded at an Arizona gun range near Las Vegas that draws visitors through a tour company called <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;version=HpHeadline&amp;module=second-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">Bullets and Burgers</a>. How on earth was such a child allowed to fire such a powerful weapon on fully automatic, by a person who knows enough about firearms to have <a href="" target="_blank">served in the Army</a> in Iraq and Afghanistan? See video of the incident below via the <em>New York Times</em>; the clip doesn't show the actual moment of tragedy, but it's plenty chilling nonetheless.</p> <p>Reactions to the news, as you might expect, have ranged from somber to mystified to angry. But with the story making the rounds on social media, only those latter two applied to a tweet posted on Wednesday afternoon by <a href="" target="_blank">NRA Women</a>, which is part of the National Rifle Association's <a href="" target="_blank">Women's Programs</a> and is sponsored by gun manufacturing giant Smith &amp; Wesson. "<a href="" target="_blank">7 Ways Children Can Have Fun at the Shooting Range</a>" the tweet announced, linking to <a href="" target="_blank">a recent story</a> that details how kids can get bored with target practice if not properly entertained. NRA Women posted the tweet at 1:51 p.m. Pacific on Wednesday; by about 3 p.m. it had been removed, but not before I and others took a screenshot of it:</p> <center> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/nra-women-again.jpg"></div> </center> <p>The list of options in the article included firing at animal, zombie, and even exploding targets, but surely there was a better time for NRA Women to promote them. Historically the NRA is known for its disciplined and effective messaging. But more recently, as it has branched out to <a href="" target="_blank">cater to children</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">women and minorities</a>, America's top gun lobbying group seems to be misfiring, <a href="" target="_blank">again</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">again</a>.</p> <center><iframe frameborder="0" height="373" id="nyt_video_player" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src=";playerType=embed" title="New York Times Video - Embed Player" width="480"></iframe></center></body></html> Politics Guns Top Stories Wed, 27 Aug 2014 23:43:18 +0000 Mark Follman 259271 at Michael Brown's Mom Laid Flowers Where He Was Shot—and Police Crushed Them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/20140809_zaf_m67_044.jpg-web_0.jpg"></div> <div class="caption"><strong>St. Louis County police officers confront a crowd in Ferguson after Brown's shooting. </strong>David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT/ZUMA Press</div> <div class="caption">&nbsp;</div> </div> <p>As darkness fell on Canfield Drive on August 9, a makeshift memorial sprang up in the middle of the street where Michael Brown's body had been sprawled in plain view for more than four hours. Flowers and candles were scattered over the bloodstains on the pavement. Someone had affixed a stuffed animal to a streetlight pole a few yards away. Neighborhood residents and others were gathering, many of them upset and angry.</p> <p>Soon, police vehicles reappeared, including from the St. Louis County Police Department, which had taken control of the investigation. Several officers emerged with dogs. What happened next, according to several sources, was emblematic of what has inflamed the city of Ferguson, Missouri, ever since the unarmed 18-year-old was gunned down: An officer on the street let the dog he was controlling urinate on the memorial site.</p> <p>The incident was related to me separately by three state and local officials who worked with the community in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. One confirmed that he interviewed an eyewitness, a young woman, and pressed her on what exactly she saw. "She said that the officer just let the dog pee on it," that official told me. "She was very distraught about it." The identity of the officer who handled the dog and the agency he was with remain unclear.</p> <p>The day brought other indignities for Brown's family, and the community. Missouri state Rep. Sharon Pace, whose district includes the neighborhood where the shooting occurred, told me she went to the scene that afternoon to comfort the parents, who were blocked by police from approaching their son's body. Pace purchased some tea lights for the family, and around 7 p.m. she joined Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, and others as they placed the candles and sprinkled flowers on the ground where Brown had died. "They spelled out his initials with rose petals over the bloodstains," Pace recalled.</p> <p>By then, police had prohibited all vehicles from entering Canfield Drive except for their own. Soon the candles and flowers had been smashed, after police drove over them.</p> <p>"That made people in the crowd mad," Pace said, "and it made me mad." Some residents began walking in front of police vehicles at the end of the block to prevent them from driving in.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/AP707871264399.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>A woman prays at the site on Sunday, August 10, where Michael Brown was killed the previous afternoon. </strong>J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/AP</div> </div> <p>A spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police told me that the department was unaware of these incidents; he added that complaints should be submitted to the department's Bureau of Professional Standards.</p> <p>St. Louis alderman <a href="" target="_blank">Antonio French</a>, who was on the scene that night, tweeted videos and photos including one of the mangled memorial:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>They've brought the dogs out in <a href="">#Ferguson</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) <a href="">August 10, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"> <p>Police cars trampled the rose petals and candles at the memorial for <a href="">#MikeBrown</a>. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Antonio French (@AntonioFrench) <a href="">August 10, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>(Also see our <a href="" target="_blank">visual timeline of the shooting and its aftermath</a>.)</p> <p>Several sources in Missouri government and law enforcement insisted to me that some criticism of the police response to the unrest has been overblown. Multiple agencies quickly responded to the chaos: "We'd never had such a blatant incident like this," one person told me. "It just went over the top."</p> <p>But others, including Rep. Pace, said the problems ran so deep that they continued even after Gov. Jay Nixon stepped in and put the Missouri Highway Patrol in charge. On the afternoon of August 19, Pace and her colleague Rep. Tommie Pierson, whose district abuts hers, were standing near the McDonald's on West Florissant Avenue, observing a group of about 100 protesters marching down the street. There was a strong police presence but the atmosphere remained peaceful, Pace told me, and their goal was to mediate between their constituents and law enforcement. Police officers approached and ordered the crowd to keep moving. A female Missouri Highway Patrol officer confronted Pierson, reaching for her mace.</p> <p>"Are you getting ready to mace me?" Pierson asked in disbelief. The officer backed off after Pace explained to another cop who they were.</p> <p>"It's bad when you don't have any respect for anybody," Pierson told me last week. "Even now that's still going on: 'You do what I tell you, or I'll mace you, I'll shoot you, no questions asked.'" (The Missouri Highway Patrol did not respond to a request for comment. Later that night a police officer from another agency was recorded pointing a semi-automatic rifle at nonviolent protesters and threatening, "<a href="" target="_blank">I will fucking kill you, get back.</a>")</p> <p>Throughout the conflict in Ferguson, certain police tactics clearly helped escalate the long-simmering tensions in a city with a majority black population and mostly white power structure. One state official told me that people in the community saw <a href="" target="_blank">the way Brown's body was handled</a> as a deliberate act of intimidation, echoing the slavery era, "when somebody was beaten or lynched and they made everybody come out and watch." With regard to the Ferguson police force, this official added: "They have an 'us against them' attitude, and they care nothing at all about the people who pay their salaries and that they have sworn to serve and protect."</p> <p>Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown, made his home in Crestwood, a suburb about 17 miles from Ferguson whose population is 94 percent white. The<em> Washington Post</em> <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> that prior to serving on the Ferguson police force, Wilson served in the neighboring municipality of Jennings, whose police department was so plagued by racial tension and excessive use of force that the city council disbanded it in 2011. It should come as little surprise, one Ferguson community leader told me, that Brown's killing and the heavy-handed response to the protests were seen by many as "a declaration of war."</p> <p>The thinking behind that response&mdash;among Ferguson police as well as the other agencies called in for assistance&mdash;has largely remained obscure to the public. One Missouri official with ties to Ferguson told me that fears about widespread looting appeared to play a role. Though it drew little notice beyond St. Louis media, in the first couple of nights after Brown's death sporadic looting and violence occurred well beyond Ferguson, <a href="" target="_blank">in south St. Louis</a> and in a shopping mall <a href="" target="_blank">in Richmond Heights</a>.</p> <p>"I think that gave an impression that it was going to happen everywhere and the police need to react accordingly," the official said. <a href="" target="_blank">Gun sales</a> in St. Louis also jumped. But a crucial factor in the police response, in his view, was that "a lot of them are not adequately trained. They've got an extraordinary situation that they're put into, and what do they know? They know force." Then add in the military gear that police departments have received since 9/11&mdash;"stuff that was produced for Iraq or Afghanistan." (A person involved with the special operations division of the St. Louis County Police Department gave me a more positive assessment, noting that despite several nights of violence, nobody was seriously hurt or killed in the police response.)</p> <p>Charles Henson, a former member of the Ferguson-Florissant school board, suggests that while police made mistakes, some unfair criticisms have been piled on. "A lot of people got very angry about the officer being put on paid leave while the shooting is investigated, but I think that is just following protocol," he told me.</p> <p>"The real hope now is that a light has been shined," Henson added. "There is a lot of work to be done in this community, and if folks in the city government feel that there's not an issue with regard to bias and race, then we've got a problem. Because that's fuel for another situation like this to happen again, and we can't take another one of these."</p></body></html> Politics Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Top Stories Wed, 27 Aug 2014 10:00:06 +0000 Mark Follman 259011 at Target Officially Rejects Assault Weapons in Its Stores <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A month after images first surfaced of pro-gun activists <a href="" target="_blank">flaunting semiautomatic rifles</a> <a href="" target="_blank">at</a> <a href="" target="_blank">Target stores</a>, the retailer has become the latest US company to officially reject firearms in its outlets.</p> <p>"Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so," Target said in <a href=";fb_action_types=og.comments" target="_blank">a statement</a> Wednesday. "But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target&mdash;even in communities where it is permitted by law."</p> <p>The move follows weeks of pressure from <a href="" target="_blank">Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America</a>, which used social media, online petitions, and protests at Target stores to call for such a change.</p> <p>Still reeling from its disastrous <a href="" target="_blank">failure to secure</a> customers' personal data, Target leaders "were really nervous" after the gun issue emerged, a person with direct knowledge of the company's discussions about it told me. "This was the last thing they needed." Still, the company endured weeks of negative attention on the issue, even as Texas authorities and one of Target's corporate strategic partners <a href="" target="_blank">made clear</a> that Target was trying to stop the guns from coming in.</p> <p>Target joins a growing list of corporations&mdash;including Starbucks, Jack in the Box, <a href="" target="_blank">Chipotle</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Sonic</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Chili's</a>&mdash;that have reacted to demonstrations by open-carry activists by announcing that they don't want people carrying guns on their premises.</p> <p>Whether open-carry activists will comply with Target's request appears to be an open question. One of the first to <a href="" target="_blank">comment</a> on Target's posted statement was Kory Watkins&mdash;a leader of a Texas open-carry group that's conducted provocative demonstrations, used <a href="" target="_blank">disturbing intimidation tactics against women</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">harassed a Marine veteran</a>&mdash;who said he plans to pack heat at Target "today and tomorrow and whatever days I want."</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Kory%20Target%20comment.png"></div> <p>Carrying rifles on display in public is legal in Texas, although regulations governing Target's sale of alcoholic beverages <a href="" target="_blank">forbid guns on their premises</a>, and armed patrons who don't leave upon request could be subject to <a href="" target="_blank">criminal trespassing charges</a>, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.</p> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones' <em>award-winning reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p></body></html> Politics Corporations Guns The Right Top Stories Wed, 02 Jul 2014 14:30:07 +0000 Mark Follman 253486 at Gun Activists Pack Heat at More Target Stores <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="guns at target" class="image" src="/files/target-1-630_1.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Target store in Oklahoma, June 21. </strong>Facebook: Screen shot</div> </div> <p>A battle over gun politics that first put Target in the crosshairs in Texas has begun to spread around the country. Over the past week, several people have openly carried handguns into Target stores in Virginia and Oklahoma and posted pictures of themselves on Target's Facebook page, using the hashtag #OnTarget and&nbsp;thanking the retailer for "their decision to not ban guns in their stores or lots." The armed people were responding to mounting pressure on Target from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which has used a social-media campaign (hashtag: #OffTarget) to denounce a string of open-carry demonstrations first involving <a href="" target="_blank">stores</a> in <a href="" target="_blank">Dallas-Fort Worth</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Corpus Christi</a>.</p> <p>This week's 2A activists&mdash;who included two men and another person who appeared to be a woman&mdash;posed with the chain's signature red-and-white shopping carts, Target receipts, and their holstered handguns. Then they uploaded the photos to Target's Facebook page: "#OnTarget will continue to shop Target while they support the Second Amendment," the woman who packed heat inside an Oklahoma store commented in her post on June 21, adding, "#OffTarget is for idiots who think the government can protect them."</p> <p><span class="userContent">The man who displayed his gun at a Target in Chesterfield, Virginia, on June 23 commented that it was "awful" for Moms Demand Action to pressure Target to ban<span class="text_exposed_show"> "law abiding citizens who carry for self-defense," adding, "to show my support for Target, I visited my local store and spent some money.</span></span>"</p> <p>It is legal, with a state-issued permit, to openly carry handguns in Oklahoma. It's also legal in Virginia, where no permit is required to do so.</p> <p>Target's Facebook page was also riddled with harsh comments from customers opposed to the open-carry activism. In response to a Target post on Wednesday advertising Annie's Cheddar Bunnies, one person reposted the photo of the armed Virginia man, commenting: "Love me some Annie's snacks, but I won't be buying them at Target as long as they allow trigger happy nut jobs like this to wander their aisles armed with deadly weapons."</p> <p>"Who needs an AR-15 to buy legos or baby toys?" asked another customer, alongside an image of heavily armed men taken <a href="" target="_blank">in a Dallas-Fort Worth store</a> in March, which included at least one member of a gun-activist group involved in <a href="" target="_blank">disturbing intimidation tactics against women</a>. "I do not want to have my children near AR-15s where we shop for toys. I will shop elsewhere."</p> <p>In several communications with <em>Mother Jones</em> since June 16, Target, which does not sell guns or ammunition, has said that it complies with all applicable laws. But the company has declined to say whether it has an official policy on guns, or even whether it might be considering one in light of the rising open-carry issue. However, an official with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission told me last week that Target has since instructed its personnel in Texas to forbid firearms in stores there, as guns on the premises where the company sells alcohol would put it <a href="" target="_blank">in violation of state regulations</a>. And the CEO of The Honest Company, which recently launched a strategic partnership with Target to sell its eco-friendly family products, <a href="" target="_blank">told me</a> that his business is "working directly with Target on a daily basis" to find a solution, further acknowledging that "it's a very important issue for the entire country, and for parents and moms."&nbsp;</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="guns at target" class="image" src="/files/target-3-630_0.jpg"><div class="caption"><strong>Target store in Chesterfield, Virginia, June 23. </strong>Facebook: Screen shot</div> </div> <p><strong><em>For more of </em>Mother Jones' <em>award-winning reporting on guns in America, see all of our <a href="" target="_blank">latest coverage here</a>, and our <a href="" target="_blank">special</a> <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a>.</em></strong></p></body></html> Politics Guns The Right Top Stories Thu, 26 Jun 2014 21:21:35 +0000 Mark Follman 254931 at