President Obama’s grassroots political arm is organizing Newtown anniversary events across the country to push for increased gun control laws.
“Supporters will be gathering at events in communities across the country, with partner organizations, to pay tribute to the 26 victims and call on Congress to finally take action to make our communities safer,” states Organizing for Action (OFA), on its website.
On Dec. 14 of last year, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 young students and teachers. Lanza used a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and two handguns that he took from his mother’s gun collection. Lanza, who had a history of mental and behavioral problems, murdered his mother before the mass attack and shot himself afterwards.
The shooting sparked immediate calls to lawmakers for increased gun control and sparked a debate over whether guns or Lanza’s mental state were most to blame for the attack.
As part of its event planning, OFA has created a host packet which includes “Remember Newtown” ribbons. The president’s campaign arm also suggests that attendees light candles, recite the names of the 26 shooting victims, and discuss personal stories about gun violence.
OFA also provides hosts with sign-up sheets that ask attendees for their email address, physical address, and phone number.
To ensure a successful event, OFA also asks hosts to “highlight the fact that Congress has failed to take action to expand background checks for gun sales – or do anything else to prevent gun violence”.
“Your message can include which member of Congress you are addressing for the event (either positively or negatively),” reads OFA’s host guide, which is provided to individuals who sign up to host an event.
OFA also asks hosts and attendees to use social media to “amplify our events locally and nationally”. They’ve designated the Twitter hashtags #WeAreNewtown and #OFAction for the event and plan to host a conference call and an online social media seminar several days before the meetings.
The organization encourages hosts to take pictures of attendees carrying “great signs” and other props.
OFA challenges hosts to ask themselves, “What’s going to look good in a photo that could explain the theme of this event?”
The gun control literature that OFA is providing to event hosts focuses mainly on fixing what the organization calls a “broken background check system”. OFA emphasizes increased checks on guns purchased at gun shows and online.
But at least one prominent gun and crime researcher says he thinks that the OFA campaign is misleading.
“Obviously background checks wouldn’t have stopped Newtown,” John Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Lanza’s mom bought the guns, and she was legally able to do so and could have been able to do so under the Senate bill that President Obama was advocating earlier this year,” he said.
Lott says two particularly misleading claims are being made about Newtown and gun control.
“Since its inception, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System has blocked more than 2 million gun sales to people prohibited from purchasing them,” reads one OFA bullet point. The organization also says that approximately 40 percent of all gun sales in 2012 were transferred without a criminal background check.
Lott calls those claims “completely false.” They rely on decades-old data and ignore that the vast majority of gun ownership transfers are “within-family inheritances and gifts,” he said.
Organizing for Action did not return requests seeking comment.
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