You don’t have to take my word for this. A former employee of Everytown for Gun Safety, the lead group in the recent ballot gun control measure, used that very word, “disturbing” to describe the ways that Everytown uses to achieve their goals.
I heard from this person after the former Everytown employee read my columns on the gun intiative. I will let this person speak to you directly, and I am sure you will find these disclosures to be interesting – and yes – disturbing.
The first message I received
I am writing to you about a subject I think may be of shared interest to both of us. I am a former employee of Everytown for Gun Safety the national organization that is bankrolling ballot initiatives to require universal background checks gun sales in Maine and Nevada. I am hoping to converse with a journalist about the extent of Everytown’s mission and goals and some of the disturbing ways they are willing to achieve them. I am reaching out to you in particular because of your knowledge of both sides of the arguments surrounding background checks.
I’ve read both of (your) articles and think the transition you make is sensible in light of the details of the bill that is being pushed through in Maine.
In the first article you describe the importance of the exceptions for background checks when borrowing a firearm for hunting. Most people are under the impression that there is an exception in these laws if the transfer is temporary. However, the full language of the exception requires that the person loaning a gun be in the borrowers’ presence the entire length of the transfer and that the transfer only takes place in locations where hunting is legal. This makes completely normal behavior illegal (beyond the things you pointed out already in your article):
– even if you’re going hunting together, it prohibits you from driving in separate cars or potentially even being out of sight of the other person, meaning you would have to be glued at the hip while hunting in order to obey the law.
– since the exceptions for temporary transfers only applies when in legal hunting areas, this means you could be in violation of the law for this transfer if you drive or walk through an area where hunting is prohibited even if traveling together for the purpose of legal hunting.
Finally, this law also serves as a defacto ban on handgun purchases for those aged under 21 since federally licensed firearms dealers are prohibited from selling to those under 21.
On the topic of public safety, I will say outright that it is widely acknowledged within the organization that background checks are not particularly effective at preventing gun violence, but that it is just one step in the national movement towards gun control. The stats about background checks they are using in their commercials are small scale studies exclusively done in urban places, Maine’s demographics and the nature of its gun violence is completely different.
A concern or urgent need to promote gun safety is not the reason certain geographical locations are chosen to do electoral work. Geographical locations are chosen for Everytown’s gun control initiatives because these are relatively inexpensive places to push policy agendas through using the mechanism of a citizen’s initiative 1.) the cost of living is lower so wages for workers are lower and labor laws are lax 2.) more importantly, media buys are less expensive.
This helps explains the disproportionate investments these campaigns make toward their field staff versus their media campaigns. Their field staff investments are a way to create a facade of being “grassroots campaign of volunteers.” Fundraising efforts are simply an exercise to say that there is local support, but the percentage of money spent and earned by the field staff is negligible. On the website for Yes on 3 in Maine they say there are 1,000s of volunteers- this is a massive exaggeration and way to manufacture the image of public support. That is what their field staff is hired to do- manufacture the image of public support, take advantage of existing community events to push policy agendas without giving back to the communities or participating as stakeholders.
These “citizen-driven” campaigns are the first step in the fight for stricter gun regulations nation-wide. It’s just something these political elite and one billionaire in particular (Bloomberg, who very likely sees gun control as a pet project in advancing his presidential aspirations) see as low hanging political fruit and are willing to take advantage of communities to further their own political careers and financial status. Portland Press Herald calls it an incremental approach in their editorial page supportive of the proposed law and they are right.
The final point I will go out on a limb to make is that the national organization Everytown for Gun Safety regularly did invasive background checks on their own employees by hiring private investigators to acquire information beyond what is legally accessible. If they are willing to do that to their own employees why would they stop at this level of privacy invasion when it comes to gun regulations? To them, violations of privacy, interruption of key aspects of our hunting and sporting lifestyle are all minor sacrifices. To that point- when David Farmer, campaign manager of the Maine initiative, responded to Game Wardens who spoke out in opposition he said, “At most, what this does is it creates a minor inconvenience for people in certain circumstances.” I think many responsible Mainers would disagree.
The second message I received
I am only available to speak further on the condition of anonymity. Everytown for Gun Safety has extensive nondisclosure agreements and it was a retaliatory work environment. I have no doubts that if they discovered who I am they would come after me using legal action and other means.
In writing about this I am fine with being identified as a former employee of Everytown for Gun Safety, but can’t come forward by name. I am sending along an internal document to verify that I actually did work for Everytown.
Attached you will find a copy of the Maine Moms Demand Action voter contact phase of their field plan- a document written by senior management in Maine and prepared by the digital team at Everytown for Gun Safety. Though some of the mechanics and staffing changed you will find the authenticity of this document can be corroborated by comparing it against public campaign finance reports.
Of particular interest in this document is the acknowledgement that Maine has been chosen because it is a cost-effective place to “test their messaging” and how this will be of benefit beyond 2016 despite insisting nation-wide that these ballot initiatives are the only sort of gun regulations they are seeking to put on the books. The document says,
“Maine’s small population and connected communities make it a great location to field test messaging in a cost effective manner. Field tested messages in a rural state will be beneficial to the organization beyond the 2016 efforts. Maine’s ballot campaign has proven thus far to be an effective tool to engage new supporters in the GVP movement. Maine’s grassroots field work can be utilized as a tactic to bring in new members into Moms Demand Action’s state-based team. It will be important to develop and refine blueprints outlining the most effective ways to use ballot campaigns to grow membership including developing skilled community leaders.”