by Dave Kopel
America's 1st Freedom, July 2014
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s newest gun-prohibition group, Everytown for Gun Safety, has gotten off to a rough start—and for good reason.
The group, like Bloomberg’s so-called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is built largely on deceit and outright lies. MAIG, as it turned out, had far more than “illegal guns” in its crosshairs, instead pushing for restrictive laws that would infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens. This led to a mass exodus of dozens of mayors over the past few years, once those city leaders learned of the group’s true intent.
Similarly, Everytown seems to be headed quickly in the same deceitful direction. While claiming to be a group about “gun safety,” its first few efforts have largely been targeted toward convincing Americans—especially mothers—that having firearms in their homes makes them far less safe and represents a tragedy waiting to happen.
Consequently, that group has already seen some high-level defections.
The similarities don’t end there. While maig claimed to be a “grassroots” group, it never had more than a tiny fraction of America’s mayors on its rolls. Many that were members of the group likely signed up due to hopes of getting some of Bloomberg’s bucks through campaign contributions.
Likewise, Everytown’s claim to be a “grassroots” organization is easily seen as an outright lie. Any group funded from the top down by $50 million from the nation’s top gun-ban zealot should be embarrassed to even have the word “grassroots” and “Everytown” mentioned in the same sentence.
Although media coverage of the group has generally been admiring, there is little evidence that Bloomberg is succeeding so far in creating a true “grassroots” organization.
However, Bloomberg actually needs no grassroots to succeed in his one-man war against the Constitution. His pledged $50 million is a substantial sum that will require us all of us to Stand and Fight together to protect our right to keep and bear arms.
But first, some background.
On the downside for Bloomberg, the most credible member of his organization has very publicly quit. Former Pennsylvania Republican Governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge resigned from Everytown just a few days after the organization’s debut. Ridge said he had hoped to participate in “a thoughtful and provocative discussion” about firearms, but he was “uncomfortable with their expected electoral work.”
Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns” (MAIG) has been losing lots of its members, as more and more mayors have come to the same realization as Sioux City, Iowa, Mayor Bob Scott. He left MAIG once he figured out that MAIG is “against all guns,” and “not just against illegal guns.” Fifty Mayors quit MAIG in 2013, while 10 percent of MAIG Mayors retired or were defeated for re-election.
When the NRA defeated MAIG in U.S. Senate votes in April 2013, MAIG’s political credibility took a major hit. So MAIG has been folded into the umbrella Bloomberg group of Everytown.
Also folded into Everytown was another Bloomberg group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group originally called itself “One Million Moms for Gun Control,” and perhaps changed its name after realizing that they were not going to get anywhere close to 1 million members, even if you count every Like on Facebook as a supporter.
The Moms group is run by Shannon Watts, who is often portrayed in the media as just an ordinary suburban mother concerned about gun violence. Actually, according to her Linkedin.com profile, her background is as a public relations and communications professional for large corporations and as public affairs officer for the late Mel Carnahan, the vehemently anti-gun governor of Missouri.
Despite a lot of slick advertising, the Bloomberg Moms group has been unable to exert significant political influence, probably because of its inability to really mobilize the grassroots. In fact, the group has been reduced to taking credit for things it did not accomplish.
For example, in early 2014, the Texas company Slide Fire, which makes aftermarket adjustable stocks for the AR-15 platform, rented a billboard in Chicago. The billboard showed a baseball, an apple pie and an ar-15 with a Slide Fire stock, along with the text “Pure American.” Moms Demand demanded that the billboard be taken down, and the billboard company, Lamar Advertising, refused.
A few weeks later, the billboard was blank, and Moms Demand Action proudly proclaimed victory in the culture war. Except the real reason that the advertisement ended was that Slide Fire’s contract term for the billboard was only two months, and the time had run out.
At the NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Indianapolis this past April, Everytown/Moms hoped to organize an anti-NRA grassroots demonstration featuring Watts. But only a few dozen people showed up. And many of the people who did participate were receiving an all-expenses paid trip from Bloomberg.
Ironically, accompanying the Bloomberg protesters were professional armed bodyguards. It is certainly Bloomberg’s right to pay for armed guards for himself, for Shannon Watts and for anyone else he chooses. Indeed, the use of armed bodyguards by Watts and Bloomberg demonstrates that they actually recognize the truth of Wayne LaPierre’s statement: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
Yet while Bloomberg and Watts rely on good guys with guns for their own personal security, they fight relentlessly against allowing armed self-defense by good citizens who cannot afford professional bodyguards.
In late April, Everytown’s director, Mark Glaze, announced he would resign. This was not necessarily a bad thing for Everytown. John Feinblatt, who served as Mayor Bloomberg’s chief aide in the New York City government to promote the anti-gun agenda, replaced Glaze. Feinblatt might have Bloomberg’s trust and confidence in a way Glaze never did, and so could be a more effective manager of the Bloomberg lobby.
Danger in Dollars
It is very unlikely that Bloomberg’s Everytown will ever develop a significant grassroots base. A lot of other anti-gun groups have tried to build grassroots in the past, and they had very little success.
However, these anti-gun groups have never needed grassroots to get their message out. Much of the traditional media has been willing to act as public relations firms for gun-ban organizations, producing biased articles and stories that uncritically repeat the gun-ban talking points. The massive media coverage of Bloomberg’s Everytown has been in the same vein.
Everytown will likely be even more of a top-down operation than the other gun-ban groups. The other groups at least had to pay attention to their donors. In contrast, Everytown enjoys the limitless wealth of Bloomberg himself, the sixteenth richest man in the world, according to Forbes magazine, with a personal fortune of $32 billion. Also supporting Everytown is Bloomberg’s friend Warren Buffet, the third richest man in the world, who has $65 billion.
With that kind of money, you can hire the best advertising agencies, public relations firms, political consultants, campaign professionals and lobbyists.
Demonizing the NRA will be a top priority, as it always has been for gun prohibition organizations. During the 143rd NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, Bloomberg bought TV commercials in Indianapolis and d.c. titled “Not Our Words,” designed to associate the NRA with violent criminals. For example, Antonius Wiriadjaja repeated Wayne LaPierre’s words, “The presence of a firearm makes us all safer.” He next pulled up his shirt to reveal his gunshot wounds. Wiriadjaja was nearly killed as an innocent bystander of a drive-by shooting in broad daylight in the rough Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn last July.
But despite Bloomberg’s implication, we all know the NRA does not support firearms in the hands of people such as the criminal who shot Mr. Wiriadjaja. The full quote, which of course Bloomberg did not use, is from LaPierre’s Feb. 11, 2011, post on the NRA blog: “Our security is in our own hands, and is guaranteed by the bearing of arms in the hands of good people all across this country. The presence of a firearm makes us all safer.”
Arms in the hands of good people protect public safety, and arms in the hands of bad people (like the thug who shot Mr. Wiriadjaja) endanger the public. The NRA has always made that distinction, but Bloomberg does not.
The Bloomberg core strategy is based on the fact that polling has consistently shown a gender gap between men and women on numerous issues, including guns. For married women, there is little if any gender gap. But for single women—especially younger ones—the gender gap here is enormous.
In fact, on the specific topic of firearms, the women who care most about gun violence are less likely to vote in a nonpresidential election. Many are minorities or younger and unmarried. (Women Donors Network study, reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, May 3, 2014.)
Why is this so? Generally speaking, people who do not vote regularly are less informed about public affairs and pay less attention to the news than do regular voters. Such people are less likely to explore both sides of any given debate.
If these irregular and young voters are also urban, they may have no personal exposure to America’s large culture of responsible and lawful gun use. The only thing they might know about guns is from when they turn on the 10 o’clock news to find out about tomorrow’s weather and see a story about a liquor store clerk shot by a criminal during am armed robbery.
The Obama campaign in 2012 was brilliant in its targeting of these “low-information” voters. They were told that Mitt Romney was going to take away their birth control pills. Of course that was nonsense, but if you’re low information, then you don’t always learn the real story.
Further, the Obama campaign had an excellent field organization, with a large paid staff supervising an even larger number of volunteers to identify and track these low-information voters, and to repeatedly remind them to vote.
You can call Michael Bloomberg a lot of things, but “community organizer” is not one of them. However, Bloomberg doesn’t need to inspire volunteers. He can simply hire call centers, door-to-door campaigners and other field staff.
Over the summer and fall, Bloomberg’s social media operation will likely invest millions to collect information about people who in some way express a dislike of guns—such as by “liking” one of Bloomberg’s anti-gun videos on Facebook or YouTube. When voting begins in October (in some states) and on election day, Everytown’s “Gun Sense Voter” program will contact them relentlessly until they vote. The objective is to turn out 1 million additional anti-gun voters.
Everytown may, in fact, work closely with the Obama White House. In 2013, the White House anti-gun program delegated state-level lobbying to MAIG. The May 3 issue of the Washington Post featured an op-ed by Danny Franklin, of the Benenson Strategy Group, a leftwing political consulting firm. The tag line said that Franklin is a member of the company’s “team advising the White House on public opinion and communications.” Franklin urged that anti-gun advocates frame their issue in terms of “public health” so that people become afraid of guns. For example, he aims to reverse the perception held by the majority of Americans that having a gun in the home makes the home safer, rather than more dangerous.
The Battle In The States
From the pro-rights side, educating Bloomberg’s target voters is difficult. Since many of them are low information, they are not going to read a pro-rights essay on a newspaper editorial page, or seek out a variety of viewpoints on the Internet. Nor are they likely to carefully watch candidate debates, or study pro/con materials about ballot initiatives.
This makes them vulnerable to deception. A case in point is Bloomberg’s Initiative 594, which will be on the Washington state ballot in November.
Bloomberg’s people are telling Washingtonians that I-594 would require background checks on private gun sales. But that’s not the truth: I-594 is far more radical, and would actually outlaw almost all temporary loans of firearms, even among family members.
I-594 expressly applies to “loans,” which would have to be treated identically to sales. To loan someone a firearm for an afternoon, both of you would have to go to an FFL and fill out all the registration paperwork as if the FFL were selling a gun out of his inventory. The FFL would then contact the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to seek permission for the transfer. The FFL could charge whatever he likes as a service fee for conducting this “transfer.”
A few hours later, after your friend is ready to return your gun to you, both of you would have to return to a firearms store. You again have to fill out all the paperwork as if you were buying the gun from the dealer. This time, the dealer will contact the FBI for a background check on you. Again, the dealer will charge whatever fee he wishes for the service. If you don’t go to a gun store in order to loan, borrow or return a personal firearm, then both the person who loaned the gun and the person who borrowed the gun
There are very few exceptions. Family members can give a firearm to each other as a gift. But they cannot sell or loan a firearm to each other. The only intra-family loans allowed are between spouses or domestic partners.
You can share a gun “at an established shooting range authorized by the governing body of the jurisdiction in which such range is located.” But if you share your gun on your farm, while you and a buddy plink at soda bottles or varmints, then you and your friend are both criminals—unless you and your buddy drive to a gun store to get permission and pay the fee every time the gun is handed back and forth from one person to another.
Washington law allows a person of any age to obtain a hunting license. Suppose your 17-year-old son wants to borrow your rifle to go hunting. Bloomberg’s I-594 would allow that only if you or another adult go hunting with him, and he is kept under “direct supervision and control.”
If your son wants to go hunting on his own, then you’re supposed to go to the gun store to get permission to let him use your rifle. But when you get there, the FFL won’t be allowed to process the loan. The federal Gun Control Act forbids FFLs to transfer long guns to any person under 18, and handguns to any person under 21.
How about an adult friend who wants to borrow your hunting rifle for the weekend? Well, if the two of you were in the field together, you could let him use your gun. But suppose the two of you are staying at a motel, and you wanted to let him examine the gun for a while the night before your hunt. That would be a crime. The hunting exception only applies “if the hunting is legal in all places where the person to whom the firearm is transferred possesses the firearm.” Since hunting is not legal in motel rooms, you and your friend are both criminals.
The penalties for violating Bloomberg’s I-594 are severe. Loan your gun to your brother so he can go rabbit hunting for an afternoon on your own property, and you are both guilty of a gross misdemeanor (up to 90 days in jail, and a $1,000 fine). A second violation is a Class C felony (up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine).
And there’s one more trick up Bloomberg’s sleeve: All the exceptions are classified an “affirmative defense.” This means that even if the transfer of a firearm (e.g., giving a family member a Christmas present) was lawful, you can still be arrested, prosecuted and tried. An “affirmative defense” cannot legally be raised until trial.
The 2014 election in Washington is the test-bed for similar initiatives Bloomberg and Everytown plan in a dozen more states, including Oregon in 2015. And it’s indicative of how his groups say one thing when they actually mean another.
Shannon Watts claims: “We are not anti-gun and we’re not anti-Second Amendment.” (San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 2014). But that’s not true.
She repeatedly says she wants to ban “assault weapons.” According to Watts, “An assault weapon enables humans to shoot 10 rounds in one minute.” (Twitter, @shannonwatts, 1:48 pm—Nov. 1, 2013). Of course, except for a muzzleloader, every firearm can shoot 10 rounds in one minute.
In short, when the Bloomberg lobby tells you that they want “background checks,” what they really mean is that they want to criminalize all gun owners for normal activities such as sharing guns for a little while with friends or family. When, they tell you that they want to ban “assault weapons,” what they actually mean is that they want to ban as many guns as they can dupe legislators into outlawing.
That’s why despite some setbacks, Bloomberg’s $50 million could have a devastating effect on your rights, regardless of where you live. And it’s why we must all Stand and Fight to ensure we still have a Second Amendment to pass down to our children and grandchildren.
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