Since the Sandy Hook shootings and the foundation of gun violence prevention organizations like Moms Demand Action, “a small but vocal faction of the gun rights movement has been targeting women who speak up on the issue—whether to propose tighter regulations, educate about the dangers to children, or simply to sell guns with innovative security features. The vicious and often sexually degrading attacks have evolved far beyond online trolling, culminating in severe bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, and physical aggression.”
Jennifer Longdon, a parent, gun owner, and Second Amendment supporter, was paralyzed in 2004 after being shot in her car by unknown assailants. She is now a vocal advocate for gun reforms. Because of her position, she has experienced such attacks firsthand. Last May, in her hometown of Phoenix, she helped coordinate a gun buyback program with local police. Longdon was continually harassed throughout the program, which lasted three weekends. This is one example of what she heard:
“You know what was wrong with your shooting? They didn’t aim better.”
The problem has grown particularly bad in Texas, where gun groups including Open Carry Texas have demonstrated their right under state law to openly carry rifles in public along a busy road or in the local Jack in the Box. In response to bystanders calling police, Open Carry Texas “has begun making open-records requests, identifying callers and threatening to publicize their personal information.”
One woman who made such a call (to the nonemergency line of the Plano PD) was subjected to vicious abuse after a member of Open Carry Texas posted a misleading YouTube video highlighting her name and cell phone number.
And “according to Plano police records, two other people called in with concerns about the demonstration that day—both men. No member of Open Carry Texas publicized their information.”
Despite the group making great efforts to market a “clean, friendly image” to the press, several Open Carry Texas members have participated in degrading “mad minute” demonstrations in which a female mannequin is shot up. One such event in March concluded with people posing alongside a “bullet-riddled mannequin, her arms blown off and her pants down at her ankles.”
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, says, “For me, the question is always, ‘Why does this person want to kill or rape or silence me?'” she says. “I think the answer is that this issue touches a cultural nerve based on gender, geography, and other politics. There are pundits who make a good deal of money encouraging this type of anger […but] the reality is that a majority of NRA members and gun owners support the reforms we’re fighting for.”
Here in Pennsylvania, we aren’t immune to such attacks either. But CeaseFirePennsylvania and its partners will persevere because we know our efforts are working and that they are worth it.