“I asked. She wouldn’t say. I didn’t press.” That’s reporter Lydia Nuzum’s reply to “Why didn’t you ask the head of the West Virginia Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA) how many members they have?” I made the enquiry after reading Nuzum’s W.Va. chapter of anti-gun moms’ group still going one year later. It’s based on an interview with MDA’s WV “leader” Dee Price Childers [above]. While the West Virginia Gazette reporter didn’t have a grasp of (or interest in) the size of the State MDA chapter she was more than happy to accept MDA founder Shannon Watts’ claim of national membership . . .
“The organization, which has more than 125,000 members nationwide has worked toward enacting legislation that would require background checks for those purchasing guns or ammunition.”
MDA wants background checks for ammo purchases (an idea shelved but not abandoned by New York’s SAFE Act)? Who knew? More to the point, how many of MDA’s 125k members live in West Virginia? What constitutes an MDA “member” anyway? Nuzum didn’t have a clue. So I called Ms. Childers.
“So much of it is an online thing for us,” Childers told me. OK, sure. If you include “on-line members” how many do you have? “I don’t have a number,” she replied.
I politely pressed the point, asking her for a rough estimate of her group’s support in The Mountain State. “I can’t really say. I have to wait until the dust settles [from the response to her recent letter to the editor]. Call me again in two weeks.” Ten members? “Oh no, more than that.” Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? “Closer to a dozen.”
Huh. That’s a lot of positive press coverage for 12 people. Especially when you consider the fact that the National Rifle Association claims tens of thousands of dues-paying West Virginia members.
Of course, it’s not all about numbers; fringe, not-to-say extremist groups deserve media attention too. But it should be noted that none of Ms. Childers’ West Virginia “members” pay any dues to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. According to Childers, her supporters might make a contribution to the national organization, but that’s not a requirement to be counted as an MDA member.
“We’re putting together a feet-on-the-ground program,” Ms. Childers told TTAG. If the turnout for past MDA rallies are any indication that’s going to be a very heavy lift. If the past media coverage of past MDA demos is any indication, reporters will provide cover for this “enthusiasm gap” by studiously avoiding wide-angle shots. But print and TV journalists really should relay attendance numbers. It’s simple common sense.