By now you know the media narrative: Young Americans are uniformly working together on “grassroots” anti-gun activism in an attempt to unseat pro-gun elected officials across the country at all levels of government.
The danger facing gun owners is very real. Without a historic effort from pro-gun voters, gun control will be on agendas throughout the country come January. But the threat doesn’t come from a grassroots movement, it comes from a cadre of wealthy elites who are intent on eliminating your fundamental rights.
Contrary to anti-gun messaging, young Americans aren’t uniformly anti-gun. An IPSOS/USA Today poll conducted a month after the shooting in Parkland, Fla., found that when asked, “[S]hould semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 be banned in the United States?” a mere 44 percent of those ages 18 to 24 answered, “Yes.”
This calls into question the “grassroots” character of these supposedly youth-driven anti-gun efforts. However, nothing eviscerates the grassroots gun control movement myth quite like following the money behind it, and no better case study exists than Washington state.
In 2014, Washingtonians passed Initiative 594. Advertised as requiring background checks on all gun sales, in fact, I-594 criminalized even routine and temporary private firearm transfers.
The chief organizational backers of I-594 were the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund for i-594 and the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR). Everytown is a front group for billionaire gun control financier Michael Bloomberg.
According to data from Washington’s Public Disclosure commission, Everytown’s I-594 fund spent nearly $1 million to back the initiative. WAGR spent nearly $10.5 million on the measure. More than $7 million of the money raised for WAGR’s efforts came from Everytown and eight wealthy individuals.
Having succeeded in 2014, and in 2016 with Initiative 1491, WAGR and many of their billionaire bankrollers are back for more. This election year the anti-gun magnates are pushing the omnibus Initiative 1639.
Initiative 1639 would prohibit the sale of semi-automatic rifles to adults ages 18 to 20. The measure categorizes all semi-automatic rifles (even rimfire) as “semi-automatic assault rifle[s]” and imposes a training requirement on prospective purchasers. I-1639 would also impose a $25 tax on semi-automatic rifles and create mandatory storage requirements for all gun owners.
Speaking to Seattle’s KING-TV about the initiative in May, WAGR CEO Renee Thompsonexplained that young activists had “changed the energy” around the gun issue. Did this mean that Washington’s anti-gun billionaires could save their greenbacks for a second yacht? Surely, just a handful of the intrepid young adults and others motivated by the young anti-gun activists the press keep touting would provide ample volunteer manpower to get i-1639 on the ballot and across the finish line in November.
As of early September, I-1639 backers had raised $4.3 million for the campaign, with $3.7 million coming from only five individuals and Bloomberg’s Everytown.
Despite the purported change in “energy,” I-1639 supporters paid more than $3.7 million to a signature-gathering firm. Even after paying this exorbitant sum, I-1639 was nearly kept off the ballot.
Superior Court Judge James Dixon in August blocked I-1639 from appearing on the ballot, citing severe defects in the signature-gathering process. Washington law requires that signature petitions contain “a readable, full, true, and correct copy of the proposed measure printed on the reverse side of the petition,” so that signees know what they are supporting. The copy of the 30-page initiative on the forms used by the paid signature gatherers was crammed into a single page of unreadable small print and did not include underlining or strikethroughs that would indicate the changes to current law. Despite their underhanded tactics, I-1639’s backers were bailed out when the Washington state Supreme Court overruled Dixon.
Billionaire financiers, millions paid to signature gatherers and unscrupulous tactics aren’t most Americans’ idea of grassroots civic engagement. On the other hand, NRA’s nearly 6 million members represent the most proven and powerful grassroots force in American politics. Through a membership armed with the facts and our efforts to inform others, we can leverage our authentic grassroots support to expose the true forces behind gun control and dispel the media-peddled fantasies that grant our opponents an undeserved legitimacy.