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Austin Becomes 'Everytown'

Michael Bloomberg's new gun-control group launches at City Hall

By Brandon Watson, 3:45PM, Wed. Apr. 16


Rep. Elliott Naishtat (R) and members of Moms Demand Action stand behind John Woods
by Jana Birchum

Call it morning presser syndrome. Although Texas open carry advocates came out in force in response to a recent South by Southwest gun control panel, only a handful congregated outside City Hall for today's Austin launch of Everytown for Gun Safety. Their only visible firearm was printed on a "Come and Take It" flag.

Inside City Hall, more than a dozen supporters held signs as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America Regional Manager Hillary Rand introduced former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new venture – a sort of gun control supergroup combining Mayors Against Illegal Guns with Moms Demand Action.

Aided by a promised $50 million investment from Bloomberg, the new group will focus on voting, both with direct campaign contributions and with get out the vote field operations. According to Rand, the Gun Sense voter campaign aims to get 1 million supporters to the polls.

Although heavy on rhetoric, the launch took an elegiac tone with Carlee Soto and Danielle Vabner remembrance of their siblings lost at Sandy Hook. But former U.T. grad student John Woods, who lost his girlfriend Maxine Turner in the Virginia Tech massacre, urged the audience not to forget everyday violence. "The gun lobbies want us to talk about each act of violence as if it exists in a vacuum," Woods said. "They want this conversation to only be about the mass shootings … because then the conversation can only happen once a month instead of every 17 minutes."

Perhaps proving Wood's point, the National Rifle Association declined to issue a statement about the new group, instead delaying comment until next week's annual meeting.

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