Politics & Policy

The Terminal Vagueness of ‘Everytown’

Gun-control supporters are impressively evasive when it comes to actual policies.

Well, well, well — another one bites the dust. No sooner had Michael Bloomberg’s latest gun-control effort been launched upon an indifferent nation than the group’s head honcho had announced that he was stepping down. “It’s time for me to hand off the fight to somebody else,” Everytown for Gun Safety’s executive director, Mark Glaze, explained to Yahoo News yesterday afternoon. “It’s a tough issue and a tough grind . . . and there’s a point where you feel you’ve done all you can do.”

This feeling seems to be rather common. Indeed, Glaze’s resignation comes less than a week after former Republican governor Tom Ridge dropped out, revealing to the press that he had signed up for “a thoughtful and provocative discussion” but, having discovered “that [he was] uncomfortable with their expected electoral work,” would be leaving post haste. Thus did Ridge join a long line of disillusioned Bloomberg associates — a group that includes the mayor of Rockford, Ill., Lawrence Morrissey, who noted in 2013 that he had taken Mayors Against Illegal Guns’s name to mean “what it said — against ‘illegal’ guns,” but had quickly realized that “the original mission” had “swayed”; Bob Scott, the mayor of Sioux City, Iowa, who griped that MAIG was “not just against illegal guns,” but “against all guns”; and Donnalee Lozeau, mayor of Nashua, N.H., who told Bloomberg in a local newspaper column, “You’re Mayors Against Illegal Guns; you’re not Mayors for Gun Control!” All in all, 50 mayors left MAIG last year, while an additional 10 percent of its members either retired or lost their seats to pro-gun challengers. Meanwhile, the NRA hit 5 million members. There’s some movement on the gun issue, sure. Just not the kind the Left had hoped for.

In an attempt to paper over the cracks, MAIG has recently merged with another ineffective gun-control group, Moms Demand Action, and together the pair has become “Everytown for Gun Safety.” Everytown, its official material promises, is a coalition of “Americans fighting for common-sense reforms to reduce gun violence,” and hoping, in Bloomberg’s own words, to “scare” the NRA. Critics have been swift to point out that there is something deeply amusing about the sight of a group that has had trouble keeping even 5 percent of the nation’s mayors on board combining with a women’s group that has recruited 0.0004 percent of the population to its side and claiming to be representative of “every town.” Indeed, it is. But at least they’re taking a stand.

Right? Well, I’m not so sure, for it seems that either Everytown does not actually know what it is for, or it is too scared to reveal its agenda in public. Strangely, representatives from the group were accommodating of my inquiries right up until the point at which I asked for specifics: namely, for the group’s position on “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, both of which the leaders of MAIG and MDA wanted to ban last year. Rebecca Morgan, a Mom who Demands Action, who contacted me on Twitter to tell me that she “volunteers” her time to “work on common sense gun safety legislation such as: bg checks which 74% of NRA members support” ran away when I asked for more detail. “Sorry, Charles,” Morgan wrote. “Juggling helping kids w/ homework & cooking dinner & talking to u. Gotta go or I’m going to burn dinner etc.” My subsequent attempts to engage have yielded nothing but silence. Why?

Erika Soto Lamb, Everytown’s communications director, also clammed up when I asked her a simple policy question: “Does Everytown have a position on an ‘assault weapons’ ban or a limitation on the size of magazines?” Dodging the issue completely, Lamb curtly referred me to the group’s website — which is notably silent on those topics. I pushed again, and received no response. Only on my third attempt did I get anything remotely approximating an answer, accompanied by the instruction that I must quote the reply in full. Here it is, in full:

As I’ve told you before, Everytown clearly outlines our policy priorities on our issues page here including background checks, domestic violence, preventable deaths (child access to guns and suicide), and gun trafficking. 

While we believe assault weapons and magazine size have the potential to put the “mass” in “mass shootings,” we also know that events like these account for a small percentage of the 86 Americans who are killed by guns every day. Our focus is on the reasonable reforms that 90 percent of Americans support like background checks for all gun sales, prohibiting domestic abusers from getting their hands on guns, promoting the safe storage of guns and giving law enforcement the tools they need to shut down gun trafficking.

This is fair enough, as far as it goes. But it is not an answer to my question. Nor, it should be said, are any such answers forthcoming on the group’s website. There, visitors can learn that “Everytown for Gun Safety researches a range of vital issues surrounding gun violence, develops data-driven solutions, and works with lawmakers and people like you to pass common-sense laws and policies that save lives”; that “common-sense public safety laws reduce gun violence and save lives”; and that Everytown wishes to achieve its goals “in a way that still respects the Second Amendment.” They can learn, too, that the group is interested in “Background Checks,” “Domestic Violence,” “Preventable Deaths,” and “Gun Trafficking.” But, other than a support for background checks on private sales — a panacea, apparently — Everytown doesn’t offer a single policy proposal, nor does it comment on a topic that its members and leadership have actively supported and that formed a significant part of last year’s gun-control debate. Instead, the site is full of sentences such as, “We need to start an honest conversation about what responsible gun ownership means” and “We can work together to make every town safer and demand that lawmakers follow our lead.”

While the National Rifle Association has maintained its name and branding since it was founded in 1871, the gun-control movement has gone through names and outfits faster than Prince. Before market research informed its leadership that words matter, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was named first the “National Council to Control Handguns” and then “Handgun Control Inc.” — both of which titles are nice and descriptive but, alas, leave little room for ambiguity. This, evidently, will not do. In a fight in which deception has become paramount — who honestly believes that Everytown would not support an assault-weapons ban? — vocabulary has become king and euphemism indispensable. Gun “control” has thus become gun “safety”; restrictions on ownership have become “gun-violence prevention”; and hard policy has been subordinated to woolly platitude. Michael Bloomberg may have rebranded his effort, but he has not yet managed to stop the truth getting out, nor to prevent his more moderate supporters from recognizing the ruse and bolting. And “a hog in a silk waistcoat,” as Charles Spurgeon famously quipped, is ultimately “still a hog.”

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.


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