Last week, Michael Bloomberg announced his new anti-gun group, Everytown for Gun Safety, in conjunction with a $50 million initiative to develop a "nationwide grass-roots network" to pursue gun control. While Bloomberg's plans can better be described as Astroturfing, the billionaire’s statements did manage to mobilize a legitimate grassroots response. Unfortunately for Bloomberg, that response came from the pro-gun community.
Upon learning of the ex-mayor's plans, Second Amendment advocates immediately took to the battle to the web. Activists took advantage of an embarrassing oversight by the Bloomberg conglomerate and registered the name Everytown for Gun Safety with Facebook. The activists then began using the page to post pro-gun materials. The move caused an immediate sensation in the blogosphere and demonstrated the ex-mayor's ham-handed approach to grassroots. One person responsible for the page told Buzzfeed, "I took the Bloomberg name because I wanted this page to remain open to debate, unlike his group at Moms Demand Action that block anyone with alternative views. Gun owners are getting a bad rep nation wide from their anti gun propaganda. As to who I am, I am your average citizen that believes the second amendment 'shall not be infringed.'"
Other pro-rights advocates followed suit, registering Facebook pages for Everytown for Gun Safety along with various state names, such as Everytown for Gun Safety – Colorado or Everytown for Gun Safety - Indiana. Ironically, the materials posted on the preemptive Everytown for Gun Safety pages have more to do with actual gun safety – i.e., the safe-handling of firearms -- than anything found on the official Everytown for Gun Safety website.
Further, the response has reached other corners of the web. Pro-gunners have acquired Twitter handles with variations on the name Everytown for Gun Safety. Numerous others have produced images and videos parodying the new group and its materials.
Since gaining headlines all over the web, the initial Everytown for Gun Safety pro-gun Facebook page has been taken down by those who created it, with at least one outlet claiming that the removal was due to a possible threat of legal action. This is in line with what Everytown for Gun Safety Executive Director Mark Glaze told Buzzfeed on April, 16, "We're going through the proper process for transitioning our Demand Action page to 'Everytown,' which takes a few weeks, and acquiring trademark protection for both Everytown and Everytown for Gun Safety. Once that happens, we expect Facebook to shoo these cybersquatters politely off this name/page." In other words, rather than generating real grassroots support, Bloomberg is using his more typical tools of lawyers and consultants to quash an authentic grassroots movement.
While the NRA does not encourage or condone unauthorized use of legitimate trademarks, the intrepidness the pro-gun community has shown in response to Bloomberg’s rebranding campaign is instructive. The embarrassing web rollout of Bloomberg’s new group should serve as an education on the power of legitimate grassroots activism, and the limits of top-down, money-driven politics. The pro-gun activists that have taken to Facebook and Twitter aren’t a monolithic effort directed by a well-funded clique, they are scores of individuals who feel strongly about an issue and are acting in defense of their rights. No amount of money can buy Bloomberg that type of support or dedication.