NRA, Bloomberg groups spar over twitter hashtag

A social media campaign by Moms Demand Action and Everytown brought a strong public response from the National Rifle Association last week.

Earlier this month the Bloomberg-backed groups launched the #WhateverItTakes campaign in which participants photograph a picture of themselves holding a card to tell lawmakers how he or she feels about gun violence in America then tweet it with the designated hashtag. The phrase is based on a vow made by Andy Parker, the father of slain Virginia journalist Alison Parker, to urge politicians to pass new gun laws.

While the campaign by the gun control groups built to a rally at the U.S. Capitol and has been the victim of hard trolling by gun rights advocates since its inception, the bombardment reached a crescendo when the National Rifle Association jumped in.

The gun rights group fired off four tweets in just under six hours last Thursday complete with graphics using the Everytown hashtag and logo mashups.

“Gun-control activists are explaining how they feel about guns. So are we #WhateverItTakes,” said the first, with a sign addressed to gun control advocates stating disarming Americans gives criminals an unfair advantage.

“We’ll do #WhateverItTakes to protect the #2A!” reads the second with a signature, “Everytown for nonsense.” In addition, in a third, “If the goal is to reduce #crime in America… #WhateverItTakes,” with a graphic claiming 170 million new guns since 1991 next to a 51 percent decrease in violent crime over the same period.

In the final NRA tweet which read, “Will you do #WhateverItTakes? #gunsense,” a graphic of a woman armed with a handgun claims guns are used in self-defense 2.5 million times per year citing the 1995 research of Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz.

The digital pugilism soon brought reinforcements from both sides.

Conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, who has positioned herself to be somewhat of a nemesis to Mom’s Demand Action founder Shannon Watts repeatedly joined the fray in support of gun rights advocacy while using the Bloomberg group’s hashtag, as did Townhall.com’s Katie Pavlich.

On the other end of the political spectrum, left-leaning politicians to include Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and reportedly even Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton signed on to the #WhateverItTakes campaign.

When the smoke cleared, the Bloomberg groups portrayed the NRA and their ilk as evil.

“Despicably, the gun lobby is not above trolling the survivors of loved ones killed by gun violence,” reads a statement posted to MDA’s Facebook page Sunday. “The leadership of the NRA has become so extreme that they no longer adhere to the social mores that keep our communities knitted together: Compassion, kindness, decency. This is a battle between good and evil, right and wrong – and it’s time for everyone to join the fight.”

The offensive by the NRA proper comes at the same time that its Institute for Legislative Action, led by Executive Director Chris Cox, actively blasted political opponents for their reactions to the on-air killings, perhaps signaling that the proverbial gloves have come off early in the warm up to the 2016 election cycle.