Bolder Advocacy

Crisis Advocacy: The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Not surprisingly, advocates for gun violence prevention are very busy following the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, last month and just last weekend at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Ladd Everitt, the communications director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, took a few minutes in between media interviews to discuss how his group’s advocacy plans are affected by such high-profile shootings.

“I don’t know if the message is necessarily different,” said Everitt. “This is a very emotional time for us. We have people on our staff who are survivors of gun violence. There might be a bit more energy and intensity in our message.” For CSGV, the message is that gun violence is not “inevitable:”

Let’s be clear: The repeated nature of these events is the direct result of the poor policy choices made by our elected leaders. Americans can solve big problems when they set their minds to it. Today is the day to start making these changes. We ask every American to call their elected representatives today and demand immediate reform. It’s long past time to stand up to the National Rifle Association and say, “Enough.”

Role of social media has been ‘humongous’

In the aftermath of these shootings, established gun violence prevention organizations like the Brady Center and CSGV are experiencing a huge spike in the audience for social media. After the Aurora shooting, the CSGV Facebook page experienced unprecedented levels of activity. “We went up dramatically in the ‘talking about this’ stat, viral sharing of our content. Same with Twitter,” says Everitt. 

The Brady Campaign’s Twitter following has surged from 3,000 to 17,000 followers. In response to the Aurora shooting, they developed a campaign called “We are Better than This” that involves a petition and a Twitter hashtag: #wearebetterthanthis

“We are all seeing huge numbers…like nothing we have ever seen before,” Everitt said. “A lot of it is totally organic. No ads, all organic. The people are there. They come to us. They want something to do. “

In moments like this, the challenge, says Everitt, is to “translate concern into action.” To that end, CSGV — a 501(c)(4) organization — is harnessing the public’s alarm about gun violence by offering them concrete actions they can take. There are many ways individuals can join the movement to prevent gun violence.

“One interesting thing about our movement is that sometimes we don’t ask people to do enough,” says Everitt.

He lists a few of the requests his group is making of supporters through Facebook and other outlets:

  • Call the White House and Members of Congress on a daily basis asking for action to prevent gun violence.
  • Volunteer for a local or state gun violence prevention organization in their area.
  • Make a financial contribution.

Creating public pressure for reform

What’s crucial following these national tragedies, says Everitt, is to “Get heat on politicians — there are a few bills out there right now lawmakers could act on.”

Everitt believes that there’s a large body of Americans who have “finally had enough.” “Something is new here,” he says.

He’s hopeful that the public’s revulsion at how easy it was for the gunmen to obtain their weapons may signal a turning point in the national debate about gun control. Everitt would like to cultivate a constituency for whom reform of gun laws is a top priority, the same as the NRA has been able to do with supporters of unlimited gun rights.

After the initial media and public interest in the shootings subsides, the challenge for groups like CSGV is “to generate consistent action.” Their focus turns to how they keep supporters engaged day after day, and six months from now to enact meaningful reform.