It’s been ten years, according to this Brady press release, since the Million Mom March popped onto the scene, spured by a mass shooting at a Jewish community center in 1999. That got me to thinking what some of the missteps the Brady organization had made, mostly under the leadership of former Maryland congressman Michael Barnes.
The first was the name change from Handgun Control Inc to the Brady Campaign. Changing the name from Handgun Control Inc was probably a necessary move for them, given the changing scope of their mission. But I think it made about as much sense to change the name to the “Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence” as it would for NRA to change their name to the “Charlton Heston Campaign for the Second Amendment.” Sure, we like Heston, and they like Jim and Sarah. But no one under 30 remembers the Reagan assassination, and at 35 I barely remember it. That’s not to say that Jim and Sarah Brady didn’t make major contributions to the gun control movement, they certainly did, considering that the Act of Congress that bears their name enacted a third generation of federal gun controls. But if you name your organization after a person, your brand really only lasts as long as their celebrity.
That brings up the second mistake I think Barnes made, which was absorbing the failing Million Mom March, which I think succesfully feminized their movement, and lead to awkward emasculating moments like Ladd Everitt wearing a Million Mom’s t-shirt at a rally. I’m sure Mr. Everitt would argue it was not an emasculating moment, but think about it: what about dads for gun control? Regardless of how secure someone might be in their sexuality, the implication is that gun control is a woman’s issue. Some of the great advances we’ve made in the past decade has been breaking out of the good old boy stereotype and getting women involved in the shooting sports. It puzzles me why Barnes thought it was a good idea to take his movement and run in the opposite direction with it.
I’m always reluctant to publicly discuss the failures and missteps of our opponents, but I’m sure it’s something they’ve likely thought about, and even if they haven’t, there’s not a whole lot they can do to shed that baggage now anyway. The more I think about it, the more I think Bloomberg is shaping up to be our cheif opponent in the coming decade. He has an enormous amount of money, the New York City elite and political establishment behind him, and he’s managed to assemble an impressive array of allies, good enough to twist the arm of someone like Arlen Specter. But I also think Bloomberg’s organization has some fundamental weaknesses too, which I will outline in a later post.