During this year’s annual National Rifle Association convention, the newly formed gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety led a three-day rally of its own protesting the NRA.
On Saturday, April 26, the group held a “stroller jam” rally to end gun violence at the Indiana War Memorial, Veterans Memorial Plaza, just a few blocks away from the NRA show in downtown Indianapolis.
“We’re not here to challenge the many law-abiding and responsible gun owners gathered here this weekend. In fact, many of us are also responsible gun owners,” Shannon Watts, head of Everytown, said at the kick off to the group’s protest. “Rather, we’re united here to tell the NRA’s leadership and the Washington gun lobby to stop misrepresenting the facts.”
More than 100 moms and 20 gun violence survivors attended the stroller jam, but they weren’t alone. Counter protestor Jeff Sampson attended the event out of sheer curiosity about a group, even though he doesn’t have much faith in it.
“I think they’re kind of a joke. They’re a fly by night thing,” Sampson said.
Moms Demand Action and Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns merged to create Everytown, and the former New York City mayor pledged $50 million to support the cause. Sampson said he sees the merger as more of a failure than a success.
“I’m down here just pretty much — I think they’re laughable. This is a national event to them. It was posted on all their Facebook pages, on their website and they get maybe 150 supporters that turned out for it. Whereas the NRA convention downtown has 70- or 80-thousand from all over. So, they’re doomed to fail, I think,” Sampson said.
While he said he mostly agrees with their message of supporting background checks, he believes there’s details they aren’t mentioning.
“What they say they want right here is more background checks, you know what, I’ve had a background check performed every single time I’ve purchased a weapon, even at gun shows. Private sales are not sometimes restricted to background checks depending on the states. I’m actually okay with background checks on private sales as long as no records are maintained of the transaction. I don’t have an issue with that, most gun owners don’t have an issue with that,” Sampson said.
We talked to others in attendance who support Everytown. Mary Reed, a gun violence survivor, said very directly in support of universal background checks.
“I own and shoot guns, and I believe anyone that can legally purchase guns should own whatever they want, but I do not agree with allowing felons, those severely mentally ill people, or domestic abusers from legally ever buying guns, so what I would like is universal background checks,” Reed said.
According to a 2013 Gallup poll, the majority of Americans, or 91 percent of people polled, support background checks for all gun sales. However, some groups challenge that survey, saying the percentage is more like 40 percent, but still believe something needs to change.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation suggests that the National Instant Criminal Background Check system needs a revision, while the Second Amendment Foundation believes that gun owners should write their own universal background check bill in order to avoid any unwanted legislation added to the bill.
Under what conditions, if any or at all, would you agree with universal background checks? What are your thoughts?
(Ben Philippi contributed to the reporting of this article)