GOLDEN — Roughly forty Coloradans gathered Wednesday as part of a national kickoff for “Everytown for Gun Safety,” an organization backed by philanthropist and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The new group, a meshing of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, comes with a new campaign — Gun Sense Voters, which aims to turn out a million new gun-control-focused voters this year.
Copying from the politically potent “gunny” playbook that resulted in the historic recall of two pro-gun control state senators last fall, Everytown is looking to leverage grassroots voters motivated by shooting tragedies. With $50 million expected from Bloomberg alone and with heavy-hitters such as Warren Buffett and Eli Broad on the board, the organization aims to do one thing above all else: Take on the National Rifle Association.
By itself, Bloomberg’s contribution would more than double what the NRA spends annually on its political efforts. But generous funding isn’t the only strategy Evertytown has learned from “the gun lobby.” The group is already tweaking gun-control rhetoric from expressions of grief and promises of saving lives to include also some serious fear tactics. If the NRA’s line is “They’re coming for your guns and only you can stop them,” Everytown’s rally cry is “Guns are coming for your children and only you can protect them.” Perhaps the best example of this rhetorical shift is the group’s introductory video below:
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This video not only resembles an opening vignette for an episode of American Horror Story, but also is produced to motivate engagement by literally making the viewer responsible for stopping the horrible accident by clicking as a timer counts down from 10. Click pause and the vision of a little girl about to accidentally shoot herself or her brother cuts to “The scene you just stopped should never happen to any family.” This message floats above a red button for viewers to sign up among the million new pro-gun control voters the organization hopes to snag this year.
Many of those voters spoke Wednesday at Everytown’s launch in Golden. They included Tom Sullivan, Dave and Theresa Hoover, who each lost family members in the Aurora movie theater shooting, as well as Karina Vargas, who lost her ability to walk due to collateral gang violence.
For Dave Hoover, who has served for more than 30 years as a law enforcer in Colorado, the issue of gun control is both personal and professional. He noted that there have been more than 60 school shootings since 2012 and that since 2010 more than 200 police officers across the country have been shot and killed.
“In states where they have something as simple as universal background checks in place, they have 39 percent fewer officers killed by individuals armed with handguns,” said Hoover, underscoring Everytown’s primary policy goal: To radically expand universal background checks for firearm purchases.
His sister Theresa Hoover, who lost her son AJ in the Aurora theater shooting, is ready for her personal loss to result in public action.
“There’s a club of us who know this pain and suffering all too well, whose lives have been turned upside down because of gun violence. And sadly our club is growing larger and larger by the day,” she said, adding that Colorado’s gun control measures — which include background checks and magazine limits — could make everyone safer nationwide.
Golden Mayor Marjorie Sloan, a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, emphasized that because 86 Americans are killed every day with guns, gun control is everyone’s issue.
“Gun violence is not an isolated problem. It’s not merely an urban problem or a mass shooting problem. It’s an American problem and it affects everyone and every town,” she said.
Karina Vargas, who was struck in the lower back by a stray bullet outside her Aurora high school in 2010, aims to make meaning as an unintended victim of gun violence.
“Some would say I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said. “But I was exactly where I was supposed to be.”
[Photo of Karina Vargas by Stefanie Clarke]
correction: Michael G. Mullen, former chairman of both Obama and Bush Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on the Everytown board, not President Obama.