Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense founder Shannon Watts argues in Refinery 29 that gun safety can be a winning issue for candidates, citing some 2018 success stories, including one in Arkansas:
Natasha Marcus wanted to do more than send postcards about gun violence to her North Carolina state senator. Nicole Clowney wanted to keep her students safe after the Arkansas legislature passed a guns on campus bill. Linda Harriott-Gathright wanted to protect her community from New Hampshire’s deadly background check loophole.
They’re part of a group of more than 1,000 candidates across the country who ran and won on gun safety in 2018, which includes at least 16 Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America volunteer leaders elected to office.
Clowney, a University of Arkansas professor who founded Fayetteville’s Moms Demand Action chapter, one of the most active groups in the state — won a Fayetteville seat that was already controlled by Democrats. Perhaps the bigger victory to trumpet for the state’s Moms Demand Action chapter was Denise Garner‘s upset win over incumbent Rep. Charlie Collins, an NRA darling, in another Fayetteville-area seat. Collins, as readers of this blog are well aware, pushed a controversial measure allowing guns on campus, an issue that likely galvanized resistance from the Moms.
Eve Jorgensen, the volunteer leader for the state’s Moms Demand Action chapter, applauded Garner’s win in an op-ed for the Arkansas Times earlier this month:
Denise Garner made gun violence prevention a top priority of her campaign; she even campaigned with us in our red Moms Demand Action T-shirts. …
Garner … defeated Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville), a four-term incumbent and sponsor of some of the most dangerous gun bills we’ve seen in recent years. She beat him by a staggering 11 percent. Starting this summer in Garner’s district of roughly 18,000 to 20,000 voters, we knocked on over 3,000 doors and made over 8,000 phone calls. We proved time and again that we would show up, sometimes with our kids in tow, to do whatever her campaign needed. The people who worked on her campaign were astonished by the support, passion and energy our volunteers brought to the table.
NRA-backed candidates still win more often than they lose in Arkansas, but Moms Demand Action nevertheless managed to establish itself as a political force to be reckoned with in the state, particularly in the more blue-leaning patches. Jorgensen cited seven candidates elected to the House of Representatives this year who made gun safety a priority in their campaigns and got the Gun Sense seal of approval from Moms Demand: In addition to Clowney and Garner, Tippi McCullough, Andrew Collins, Charles Blake, Jamie Scott and Megan Godfrey.
Collins even pushed the issue in mailers — an unusual sight in Arkansas, where even Democrats have typically chosen to limit mentions of guns in their ads to awkward pictures of the candidate firing away at the duck blind (Collins’ primary opponent, Annie Depper, was another Moms Demand-approved candidate).
Here’s more from Jorgensen’s op-ed:
For too long, Arkansas lawmakers have been beholden to the gun lobby, and gun-violence prevention policies that are proven to save lives have been ignored. The Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is working to change that. …
I spent time campaigning for many of our gun-sense candidates this year, and one of the things that struck me was how eager the voters I talked to were for solutions to gun violence. I talked to people who were sick and tired of worrying about how safe their kids were at school and heartbroken every time they read about the gun violence that kills roughly 96 Americans every day. When I told them there were candidates running in our state who were committed to taking action to save lives, they supported those candidates with their votes.
Our advocacy experience and organizational skills proved to be crucial in pushing these campaigns to victory. Our volunteers showed up day after day to talk to voters about gun-violence prevention and the importance of voting. Whereas candidates once may have felt like they could not talk about gun-sense positions, now candidates are winning because of these positions. In electing gun-sense candidates, voters in Arkansas sent a clear message: We want leaders who will put the safety of our communities first.
And here’s Watts, the national founder, in her Refinery 29 piece:
This year, the gun violence prevention movement outspent the NRA. But we out-hustled them, too. Moms Demand Action volunteers worked with partners to register 100,000 new voters. And we had 1.2 million conversations with voters about gun sense candidates by going door to door and making phone calls. It’s because of that hard work that winning candidate after candidate has thanked Moms Demand Action volunteers during their acceptance speeches and in interviews.
I’ve yet to see any photos this election cycle of NRA members canvassing or celebrating with winning candidates. And there’s a reason for that. This cycle, we went head-to-head with the NRA in 43 races (meaning we both endorsed candidates): gun safety candidates won 33 races, the NRA won nine races and 1 has yet to be called.
Over the past six years, Moms Demand Action volunteers learned how to be community organizers. They’ve shown up in red and blue states alike. They’ve helped to pass good gun laws, including laws to disarm domestic abusers in 28 states, and defeated thousands of bad bills.