Excerpted from POLITICO
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 reelection.”
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