KRISTIN GOSS: Turn Emotion into Action
After the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, I wrote a book that asked why America had never developed much of a gun control movement. To answer the question, I looked at similar life-and-death issues around which vigorous movements had arisen and found three common elements: funding from wealthy patrons, incremental strategies that delivered momentum-building victories and maternal calls to action.
A new coalition is structured to take the grass-roots approach that other reform movements, including for expanded gun rights, have used to great effect.
With Michael Bloomberg’s announcement, the newly rebranded gun safety movement finally has it all: money, momentum and moms. Traditionally outspent by more than 10 to 1, gun control supporters rightly view Bloomberg’s millions as critical. But the kind of change they seek cannot be bought. Instead, success will depend on changing hearts and minds in the “flyover states,” where an ascendant grass-roots gun lobby has spent years liberalizing firearms laws and normalizing gun-carrying.
The new Everytown for Gun Safety coalition is structured to take the methodical, grassroots approach that other reform movements, including for expanded gun rights, have used to great effect. The coalition marries the 1,000 members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns to the 50 state chapters of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who (importantly) will keep their name. Started as a Facebook page after the Newtown massacre, the Moms group has mobilized thousands of professionally trained, media-savvy women around a 21st century vision of empowered motherhood. These are progressive Mama Grizzlies unafraid to confront armed opponents outside the neighborhood Starbucks.
Critically, the Everytown coalition also includes geographically diverse victims of gun violence and their family members, who have taken on a higher profile and roles in the wake of the mass shootings, and can speak with authenticity about how gun violence destroys families.
Conventional wisdom holds that the gun lobby wins because its supporters are more passionate than their opponents. Another possibility is that the gun control movement has lacked the capacity to translate emotion into political action. Bloomberg’s money will allow us to tell which view is right.
Kristin A. Goss is an associate professor of public policy and political science at Duke University and the author of "Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America," and co-author of "The Gun Debate: What Everyone Needs to Know." This commentary was originally published in The New York Times on April 17.