Group is fighting for gun control — but dropping use of the term

February 20, 2013

What's in a name? A lot, if your name includes the term "gun control." So in a nod to the political realities of the moment, a group founded in the days after the Newtown, Conn., school shooting is officially changing its name by dropping the politically loaded term.

 


A customer tests a Glock 20 10mm handgun at the Guns-R-Us gun shop in Phoenix on Dec. 20, 2012. (REUTERS)

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is the new name for an organization formerly known as One Million Moms for Gun Control, the group's founder will announce Wednesday. The change was prompted by confusion with another group, One Million Moms, which advocates for family-friendly entertainment media — and because the group's old name includes the term "gun control."

"We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from stakeholders that 'gun control' isn’t the best term to use because it can be polarizing," the group's founder, Shannon Watts, said in an interview Tuesday. "We don’t want to be polarizing -- we want to be a nonpartisan organization. We’re not about overturning the Second Amendment or banning guns, but we also don’t believe that we should arm every citizen."

Watts, a former public relations executive, said the feedback came from "the legislative community, from other people in advocacy organizations and from our own members, from moms who are conservative or NRA members who said to us, this term ‘gun control’ is polarizing, we need to come up with a better name so it makes it seem like we can all sit under the same umbrella."

The group's decision to drop "gun control" from its name is consistent with the messaging strategies adopted by the White House, congressional Democrats and other groups pushing for stricter gun laws that prefer to use terms like "gun violence" or "common-sense reforms" instead of "gun control." The group recently launched by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) makes no mention of firearms and is called Americans for Responsible Solutions. The name of the gun-control group founded by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) more directly conveys its purpose: Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Last week in his State of the Union address, President Obama explicitly used the word "gun" six times and "gun violence" three times, but he never explicitly mentioned "gun control," instead using the term "common-sense reform" when discussing how Congress should respond to the mass shooting.

During this week's congressional recess, members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are scheduled to visit congressional offices in at least 14 states, including Montana, Missouri, Texas and Indiana, to meet with lawmakers or their staffs. The group's one page of talking points, provided by Watts, includes no mention of "gun control" but eight references to "gun violence" and three references to "common-sense" legislation, solutions or regulations.

Here's a sampling — with emphasis added:

Moms Demand Action is not asking our government to ban guns. We simply support common-sense solutions to the overwhelming and increasing epidemic of gun violence in America. Whether the gun violence happens in urban Chicago, suburban Virginia, or rural Texas, we must act now on new and stronger gun laws to protect our children.

Our middle-ground solutions to the escalating problem of gun violence in the United States are straightforward:

 

1) Ban assault weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

2) Require background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases.

3) Report sale of large quantities of ammunition to the ATF, and ban online sales of ammunition.

4) Counter gun industry lobbyists’ efforts to weaken gun laws at the state level.

 

We expect our representatives in Congress and our state legislatures to propose, hear and vote on comprehensive legislation that incorporates common-sense gun regulations to decrease gun violence in America. Mothers will not tolerate debate, delay or dilution of immediate action that will enhance the safety of our children in cities, in rural areas, and in the suburbs.

Perhaps the gun phraseology is best conveyed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), an early ally of Watts's group, who issued this statement supporting the name change. (Emphasis added again):

“Getting weapons of war off our streets is an uphill battle, but the only way we’re going to get this done is if members of Congress hear directly from parents, teachers, law enforcement and doctors – the citizens who understand all too well what gun violence is doing to our country,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), author of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013. “I applaud the leadership of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and I am grateful for the grassroots commitment of moms all across this country to saving lives and helping to pass common-sense gun laws. Now is the time for action.”

Watts started her organization on Facebook in the days after the Newtown shooting, and it now counts nearly 68,000 members and more than 80 chapters nationwide. (At least 200 NRA members have joined her group, she said.) Less clear is how much the group has received in monetary donations; Watts wouldn't disclose a sum.

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Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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