Well it’s about time. The Indiana housewife who revolutionized how America talks and thinks about guns has finally sat down and explained how she did what she did after hearing about the tragedy at Sandy Hook. I’m of course referring to Shannon Watts, whose accounting of her journey from her kitchen to Mike Bloomberg’s office and back to her kitchen, with many stops in between, will shortly be published by Harper Collins and I hope will force Shannon to get back on her horse and do the requisite book tour.
The book is entitled, Fight Like A Mother, and the sub-title, which I really like, is How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World. The good news about this book is that while most folks write memoirs to sum up what they have done with their lives, Shannon is just getting ready to star in Act 2. Her first act, of course, was when she transformed a little Facebook group that she pulled together after Sandy into the first, truly grass-roots challenge to the NRA. And if anything, referring to her as the ‘NRA‘s worst nightmare’ is something of an understatement in this regard.
I have been involved in the gun business in one way or another for over fifty years, actually for more than sixty years because my first connection was as a consumer when I bought a Smith & Wesson K-38 at a tag sale in Florida when I was twelve years old. Okay, okay, I know it was a straw sale. But in 1956 there weren’t any straw sales because there were hardly any laws covering gun ownership at all.
When the feds got into gun regulation big-time, first in 1968 and again in 1994, the impetus for regulating the gun industry came not from the bottom but from the top. GCA68 was initially a response to the assassination of JFK in 1963; it was passed following the shootings of RFK and MLK in 1968. The gun law passed by the Clinton Administration in 1993 were also first introduced in 1991, although the idea behind the bill had been floating around since both Reagan and Jim Brady survived an assassination attempt in 1981.
Not only did the 1968 and the 1993 laws pass muster without any great degree of grass-roots support, but in the aftermath of the 2000 election, when Al Gore couldn’t hold his home state because of pro-gun messaging from the other side, it became axiomatic in Democratic Party circles that the gun issue was best left alone.
I am a Life Benefactor Endowment member of the NRA and I never thought that the organization’s alleged power and strength was such a big deal. Why not? Because I never met a single person who ever told me they would vote for the candidate supported by America’s ‘first civil rights organization’ who didn’t own a gun. And since a majority of Americana don’t own guns, how come everyone has always been afraid of the big, bad NRA?
I’ll tell you why. Because until Shannon went out there and began putting together a plan, the grass-roots movement to stop the madness known as gun violence didn’t exist. It was one thing to do what our friend Donna Dees Thomases did in 2000, namely, to fill the National Mall with nearly one million people for a demonstration against gun violence. It’s another thing to organize and sustain a national movement which puts out a coherent and continuous message every single day.
Last month I attended a meeting of the Massachusetts chapter of MOMs. Several hundred people filled a large room in a community library and listened to remarks from gun-violence survivors, community activists and other like-minded folks. What is most attractive about Shannon’s book is that it is not only a recounting of what she has accomplished over the last half-dozen years, it’s also a guide to building your own movement, to pushing your own community forward into making effective change.
And by the way, with all due respect to the strengths of women in this regard, my male friends will profit from reading this book too.