Major Gun Control Group Is Riven By Leadership Dispute
WASHINGTON — After multiple staff departures from gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety and its spinoff Moms Demand Action, activists say a top decision-maker at both groups is making life difficult for those in the movement.
According to sources close to Everytown, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action and advisory board member of Everytown, remains a problem within both groups. Watts, while not a staffer with either organization, is a full-time volunteer who lives in Colorado. Critics of Watts say that despite that status, she is involved with all major leadership decisions.
An all-staff email sent by Everytown president John Feinblatt on Monday announced that Debra Rosen, managing director of Everytown, and Isaac Bloom, deputy organizing director at Everytown, are leaving their positions.
The announcement came one month after Everytown announced it is willing to spend more than $25 million in the 2018 midterm elections to prevent national concealed carry from becoming law.
Moms Demand Action, according to its website, “has established a chapter in every state of the country and is part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country, with more than three million supporters.”
Gun control activists who previously worked for Watts in various state organizations are said to be frustrated and feeling burned by her, according to one source.
“Staff who worked for Shannon quit or are fired faster than the organization can replace them. She’s a nightmare,” the source told TheDC.
Another source close to the organization said in a written statement, “Two beliefs unite nearly all gun control supporters: background checks save lives, and Shannon Watts is a self-promoting tyrant.”
Megan Lewis, who once served as Everytown’s executive vice president, is also no longer part of the organization. TheDC was told through a source that Feinblatt fired her after the 2016 presidential election, and that those loyal to Lewis at the top exited the organization with her.
Everytown dismissed the claims about Watts in a statement to The Daily Caller.
“This fake news is the result of how we are effectively providing a counter to the extremist leadership of the NRA. Our movement is strong and growing with more than three million volunteers beating back the gun lobby’s agenda in all 50 states,” Everytown spokeswoman Kate Folmar responded to the accusations.
The National Rifle Association responded to Folmar’s jab by pointing to recent statistics for state legislatures this session that showed 28 pro-gun state bills signed into law, seven pro-gun bills awaiting a governor’s signature, seven state pro-gun bills vetoed and 111 pro-gun pieces of legislation that are pending in state legislatures.
The gun rights advocacy organization compared the numbers for the same period to the number of state gun control bills signed into law: one; gun control bill signed into law leading to a legal challenge: one; gun control bills resulting in governor signature: 1; and failed gun control bills: 34.
Folmar would not elaborate about Lewis’s departure from the organization saying, “As a matter of policy, we do not discuss personnel matters.”
Everytown did confirm Lewis is no longer part of the organization. As a result of Lewis’s exit, Feinblatt brought in Rosen at a director level, but Rosen’s stay was brief.
Feinblatt said in the all-staff email, “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Debra [Rosen]. She’s been an invaluable strategist not only in guiding Moms, but also in steering Moms and Everytown through our recent transition, skillfully taking on a host of different management responsibilities. Debra has been an asset to me, to Shannon, and to our Moms volunteers across the country. Now she is moving on to an exciting new project with a global public health organization that will be announced next month.”
Watts and Jenn Hoppe are expected to fill Rosen’s previous duties as managing director of Moms Demand Action and Everytown.
Everytown announced a slew of new hires in April, Politico reported, including former Clinton staffer Brynne Craig and former Republican congressional staffer Kirk Fordham.
Matt McTighe, the former executive director of the LGBT group Freedom for All Americans was hired as the new chief operating officer, and Eric Schultz, now senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, was also brought on board to advise Everytown on communications and political strategy.