There's a new gun in town and it's a combination of two gun control groups -- Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense which, according to their merger announcement, will "soon be stronger than any gun lobby." And who can argue with that claim when you put together Mike Bloomberg's bucks with the tireless energy of Shannon Watts and other moms, right?
The Moms claim they have more than 130,000 members and Bloomberg has enrolled more than 1,000 mayors in his club. But who knows what those numbers really mean? Moms also has 130,000 "Likes" on its Facebook page and when I went to their website their membership is free. As for Bloomberg's membership, I took a quick look at the list for Massachusetts, my state, and I couldn't find a single mayor who's a Republican, but I did find Dominic Sarno, the mayor of Springfield, where the gun homicide rate this year will probably top out at four times higher than the national average.
Since this new organization will soon be bigger than any gun lobby, let me tell you a little about that other lobby. There's been a lot of back and forth over the size of the NRA membership, with the gun organization claiming 4.5 million and various critics scaling this down to 3 million or a bit more. But whatever the real number, to join the NRA means you have to pay annual dues.
The fact that Moms doesn't have any dues not only makes me wary of their membership claims, but also raises the more important question of exactly how effective they can be. It's not very hard to use today's social media to create an organization whether it really exists or not. The Moms garnered lots of publicity when they showed up at Starbucks and sent a letter to Howard Schultz demanding that the company ban guns from all their stores. Schultz sidestepped the issue by 'asking' but not requiring gun owners to keep their guns outside, but even as strident a pro-gun outlet as the Washington Times covered the issue very timidly because lots of gun owners didn't want to risk the possibility that Starbucks might eventually get a little backbone and ban them permanently. Nobody's going to elevate the 2nd Amendment above that steamy latte.
Advocacy organizations can play an important role in any public debate regardless of their size. But the trick is to figure out who you're really talking to and whether or not they will listen to what you have to say. If Moms wants to have a real impact on the argument over guns, why don't they talk to gun owners and stop wasting their energy on convincing people who don't need to be convinced? And you don't talk to gun people by throwing up a website or a Facebook page and 'invite' them to post a comment or engage in a chat. Maybe that strategy works when you're selling a product, but it's rank arrogance to confuse marketing a product with marketing an idea.
Every weekend there are dozens of gun shows all over the United States. Each of these shows, on average, counts 10,000 admissions. So do the math: if you went to one gun show every weekend, set up a booth, gave out a flyer and shot your mouth off, by the end of the year you would have talked to 500,000 gun guys (and gals). And don't think for one second that nobody would talk to you. Gun folks love to talk -- that's why they go to those shows.
I'd love to walk into a gun show or some other gun-friendly place and see the Moms promoting their point of view. Would they get an argument from gun folks? Sure. Would the argument sometimes get nasty or offensive? It might. But if Moms believes they will make a difference by not going out and talking to the other side, they're barking up the wrong tree.
Mike the Gun Guy is a Ph.D. and author who has owned a gun store for 35 years. He is a Lifetime Member of the NRA.