- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — Organizers behind Everytown for Gun Safety, the new advocacy group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, say one of their top priorities is to turn guns into a women’s issue, akin to abortion or health care, and mobilize mothers ahead of the midterm elections in November.

Women at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting this weekend said, “Bring it on!”

“It shouldn’t be an issue and you should be able to just have your Second Amendment and be able to live your life,” said Linda Elliott, 25, a spokeswoman for 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control.

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“But they make it that important because they’re trying so hard, so you have to rise to the occasion. You have to fight back. So if they’re going to make it an issue, then great — go for it.”

Democrats have made it clear that targeting female voters will be a central part of their legislative strategy. In Washington, they are pushing issues such as the Paycheck Fairness Act and raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, which they say will benefit women disproportionately.

Attendees look over a pistol display at the National Rifle Association's annual convention in Friday, April 25, 2014 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Attendees look over a pistol display at the National Rifle Association’s annual ... more >

As for advocacy efforts on guns, Everytown’s combining the national profile of Mr. Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns with the organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is a smart strategic move, said John Hudak, a fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution who tracks the gun issue.

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“For 20 years, it was essentially the NRA on one side and nobody who even approached that level of organization on the other side,” he said. “Are they going to get it done? Maybe, but they don’t know until they try. They’re doing all the right things.”

However, the Everytown campaign cost Mr. Bloomberg’s group some high-profile support at the weekend as former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge resigned. Through a spokesman, the former Pennsylvania governor and the first homeland security secretary told The Daily Caller, “I am uncomfortable with their expected electoral work.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s pledge to spend $50 million on gun control efforts this year has clearly lit a fire under gun rights supporters. His name was met with universal scorn and derision from speakers and audiences in Indianapolis.

Beth Banister, 28, the group’s Arizona state coordinator, said defending gun rights is on the side of choice.

“You know with an abortion or anything else, I should have the choice of anything I’m going to do,” she said. “If I want to protect myself, that women’s right to choose — we should have that opportunity, end of story.”

Ms. Banister was looking ahead to the fall elections after expressing disappointment with some of outgoing Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s vetoes of gun-related legislation. Ms. Banister said she hopes Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio doesn’t run to fill the Republican’s seat because he could peel off conservative support and effectively boost a Democratic contender.

Statistics show that many women are on the same page as Ms. Elliott and Ms. Banister.

Female participation in hunting increased 10 percent from 2008 to 2012, from 3.04 million to 3.35 million, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade group representing the firearms and ammunition industries.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said in his speech over the weekend that his wife, Karen, owns more guns than he does.

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