Mums taking action on gun control

Using the successful formula established by groups like Mothers Against Drunk  Driving, mothers groups are revving up messaging, lobbying and events to keep  the issue of gun control in the national spotlight.

And they’ve got a secret weapon — bringing their cute kids along to lobby  members of Congress.

“When you go to Capitol Hill and walk the marble halls, there  are very few children around,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director  and CEO of MomsRising, which boasts more than 1.2 million members. “When we do  come through with children, people do stop and listen and I think that’s  important because kids are seldom there.”

Next week, members of MomsRising will go to Capitol Hill with their children  dressed in cow costumes to deliver small cow toys to Senators with the message  that they should not be “cowed” by the gun lobby and to get “moo-ving” on gun  policy. Last February, they roamed the halls of the Hill with a children’s  choir. For the July 4th holiday, another group called Moms Demand Action for Gun  Sense in America is marching in parades across the country.

“We have found that most politicians do listen when moms and children speak,  and that they do take time out to hear the stories and to look at the messages,”  Rowe-Finkbeiner said.

But it’s not just cute kids in cow costumes. These mothers groups are  planning to have some serious political influence on the 2014 midterm elections,  creating PACs, registering themselves as 501(c)4 organizations and running ads  on the local level.

“We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the 2014 midterms, moms are  so engaged in this they’re just not going away,” said Shannon Watts, founder of  Moms Demand Action, a group formed after December’s Newtown, Conn. shootings  that killed 20 first graders and six adults.

Moms Demand Action has teamed up with Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against  Illegal Guns Action Fund, placing an ad on the homepage of Thursday’s USA Today  website, calling for signatures to a petition to “declare your independence from  gun violence.” More than 85,000 people have signed the petition as of  Thursday.

“We believe that by 2014 it will be impossible to avoid our presence,” Watts  said, adding that their six-month-old group has more than 100,000 members across  the country. “If you aren’t willing to speak with us or aren’t willing to hear  from us, I think it will really impact their chances at election or  re-election.”

And it’s not just politicians they’re after. Corporations will soon be seeing  elevated campaigns against them for their gun-friendly policies. Watts said Moms  Demand Action will be launching a social media and lobbying campaign against  Starbucks. The company has no policy against customers who enter their stores  with concealed weapons in states that allow concealed carry permits, but on the  other hand started prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of their stores last  month.

While Watts said they are not planning to promote a boycott of Starbucks, her  group has sent tens of thousands of letters to the company and are embarking on  a social media campaign asking moms to take a photo of themselves with a  non-Starbucks coffee and the tag “I want my coffee with gun sense.”

Whether all these efforts will be fruitful against the big money of the gun  lobby is yet to be seen. The families of the Sandy Hook school shooting became a  lobbying force on Capitol Hill ahead of the April gun  control vote — but the bipartisan measure still failed.

But, these mothers say they will never give up. And echoing a sentiment of  the Sandy Hook families, they say they know it will likely be a slow  process.

“It has taken us decades to get here, it’s not going to be done overnight,”  Watts said. “We are not ever going to stand down until there is real, permanent  change.”


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