While gun owners have been using the power of their local and county governments to push Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions across the country, gun control advocates aren’t ignoring the power that can be found in local governments, though they’re adopting a slightly different strategy than Second Amendment supporters. NBC News recently reported on the gun control movement’s use of local school boards to advance their anti-gun agenda, and it’s something every gun owner should be paying attention to.
NBC’s story focuses on the efforts of a Californian named Donna Finkelstein, who founded the Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign after her daughter was wounded in a shooting at a Jewish community center in 1999. She began working on using local schools to push a gun storage message, which eventually led to the Los Angeles school board putting in place a measure that asks parents to attest that their firearms are stored in compliance with California law. Since then, the movement has taken off nationally.
“I think as the gun safety movement has matured we’ve started to see the power in working a little more locally,” said Abbey Winter, a Moms Demand Action chapter leader in Denver.
Winter, the mother of a preschooler, pitched a resolution similar to the Los Angeles policy to Tay Anderson, a 21-year-old who was elected last year to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education. Anderson then co-hosted a gun violence prevention town hall in January and proposed a resolution to require the district send information to all parents about secure storage of guns — although without asking parents to sign it. The resolution passed unanimously.
“We’re not here to push a partisan agenda or to say we must take your guns away,” Anderson said. “All we’re saying is we want to keep our kids safe.”
That’s a very important talking point for the gun control advocates, by the way. They’re billing this as a non-partisan, non-gun control activity, though not everyone agrees with that perspective.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the firearms industry, said it was concerned about what the school districts would do with the signed copies of the letters. The group also noted that it has long given away gun cable locks and had its own safe storage campaign.
The National Rifle Association did not respond to a request for comment on the school district policies. Last year in Texas, the NRA and other pro-gun groups objected to a proposal for a statewide safe storage campaign, arguing that it would promote policies that “disarm citizens in a time of urgency.”
Still, proponents of gun control policies hope that secure storage measures can defuse what often become tense disputes with groups like the NRA.
“It’s not a pro-gun or anti-gun conversation — it’s a pro-safety conversation,” said Kyleanne Hunter, a vice president of the Brady campaign. “It turns it into a risk management conversation, not what kind of rights you have.”
With all due respect to Hunter, it’s still very much an issue about what kind of rights you have. In Virginia, for instance, lawmakers recently shot down a bill that would have made it a crime for parents to allow their minor children to have access to a firearm. Even a few Democrat lawmakers pointed out that the bill, as written, could have made it a crime to teach your child how to responsibly handle a firearm at a range or to allow your 16 or 17-year old daughter access to a firearm for self-defense while she was home alone.
Gun owners have been getting better at using the power of local governments to protect their Second Amendment rights, but we need to be showing up at our local school board meetings as well. After all, gun control activists and gun owners both want to protect our children, and there are plenty of things that we can do to that would be far more useful than a letter to parents telling them to lock up their guns.
We could push for Project ChildSafe giveaways, or the implementation of the Eddie Eagle Gun Safe program in elementary schools, for example, as well as advocating for the establishment of high school trap teams, JROTC and 4H Shooting Sports programs, and other endeavors that teach real gun safety, not gun control. If we’re not in the room, however, we can’t expect a seat at the table, and right now Moms Demand Action, Brady, and other gun control groups have the room all to themselves.