“As Longdon sat waiting for her flight, a screen in the concourse showed footage of the [Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America NRA meeting] press conference. A tall, thin man standing nearby stared at Longdon, then back at the screen. Then he walked up to Longdon and spat in her face. No one else blinked.” That’s the lead from the Mother Jones article Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women, which describes Longdon as “a mom, gun owner, and Second Amendment supporter.” The article raises some important questions . . .
First, did the attacks described in the article actually happen? It may seem insensitive to suggest that a woman whose shooting injury confined her to a wheelchair and left her in constant pain would fabricate an airport assault to further her agenda. But make no mistake, Longdon has an agenda. The so-called Second Amendment supporters is “a vocal advocate for comprehensive background checks and other gun reforms.” As Benjamin Franklin would say, she has an axe to grind.
Longdon was shocked and embarrassed, she told me, but she didn’t falter. “Wow, aren’t you a big man,” she said as he turned and walked away. Instead of calling for security, she wheeled herself to a restroom to clean herself off. She was tired—she lives with constant physical pain—and didn’t want to miss her flight.
“Should I have done something more? Quite honestly, in the scheme of things it was a little man and a little moment,” she said. “He felt to me like a coward and a bully.”
In other words, there’s no independent confirmation of the attack. But let’s say it did occur, and for the reason she inferred (her work for Moms Demand Action). Does it signal a trend of some sort? Mother Jones Senior Editor Mark Follman makes the case. Kinda.
What happened to Longdon in Indianapolis is part of a disturbing pattern. Ever since the Sandy Hook massacre, a small but vocal faction of the gun rights movement has been targeting women who speak up on the issue—whether to propose tighter regulations, educate about the dangers to children, or simply to sell guns with innovative security features. The vicious and often sexually degrading attacks have evolved far beyond online trolling, culminating in severe bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, and physical aggression. Though vitriol flows from both sides in the gun debate, these menacing tactics have begun to alarm even some entrenched pro-gun conservatives.
Follman’s paragraph leaves out a crucial detail: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America – a women’s anti-gun group – began life in the aftermath of the Sand Hook slaughter. MDA’s become the pre-eminent spokesfolk for the war against guns. The [questionable] examples of “severe bullying, harassment, invasion of privacy, and physical aggression” have little to do with the gun grabbers’ gender per se.
As Elliot Fineman is won’t to say, it’s all about the guns stupid.
I’m sorry, did I call Follman stupid? That’s insulting. Good thing he’s not female. Because then I’d be a misogynist; a term used against me by MDA. I mention this because Follman’s doing MDA’s bidding: painting gun control advocates as victims. Victims of “gun bullies.” Bullies with guns. Who must be disarmed to prevent bullying with guns. Or worse!
Unlike the rest of the “logic” deployed by Shannon Watts – a woman who crusades against civilian gun ownership accompanied by armed bodyguards – the “gun bullies need disarming” argument is reasonably coherent. Ah, but is it true? Is it true in context? Follman hints at this problem with his central thesis by declaring “vitriol flows from both sides in the gun debate.” Anyway, let’s consider his evidence.
Last May in her hometown of Phoenix, [Longdon] helped coordinate a gun buyback program with local police over three weekends. On the first Saturday, a group of men assembled across the street from the church parking lot where Longdon was set up. They shouted about constitutional rights and tyranny, and called people arriving to trade in their guns “sellouts.” (The program netted nearly 2,000 firearms with more than $200,000 in reimbursements.)
Some of them approached Longdon. “You know what was wrong with your shooting?” one said. “They didn’t aim better.” Another man came up, looked Longdon up and down and said, “I know who you are.” Then he recited her home address. The harassment continued, and the men showed up throughout the program, a Phoenix police official involved confirmed to me.
Nice try. Confirmation from an unnamed police official that the men “showed up” is not the same as confirming what they said to Longdon.
After a fundraiser one night during the program, Longdon returned home around 10 p.m., parked her ramp-equipped van and began unloading herself. As she wheeled up to her house, a man stepped out of the shadows. He was dressed in black and had a rifle, “like something out of a commando movie,” Longdon told me. He took aim at her and pulled the trigger. Longdon was hit with a stream of water. “Don’t you wish you had a gun now, bitch?” he scoffed before taking off.
Really? Now that’s the kind of thing you report to the police. Like the death threats [allegedly] made to the Maryland gun dealer who announced his intention of selling the Armatix iP1 “smart gun.” Also unreported. But mentioned here, like the confrontation between Alex Jones and an elderly male MDA supporter – despite the fact that neither episode involved or “targeted” women.
But hey, when you write a hit piece, you hit, regardless whether the evidence you present is factual or, indeed, relevant. But this bit about the woman who called 911 to report an open carry march, is. Relevant, I mean. Factual? Hmmm.
The woman—a high school teacher who asked not to be identified—quickly got pummeled with text messages and voicemails, copies of which she provided to Mother Jones. Callers told her she was a “stupid bitch” and “motherfucking whore.”
“They fought for their right to carry guns,” said another. “You’re a piece of shit.” One caller threatened to come after her with a gun.
Over the next four days she received nearly two dozen such calls and text messages. Someone put her information into a phony profile on a large e-commerce site, and she got a barrage of calls about agricultural products and security systems.
“I really felt strongly about not changing my cellphone number—I’m not going to be intimidated,” she told me. “But it just got to the point where it’s not worth it.”
Again, why hasn’t she contacted the police? And why do I suspect that Follman is, at the least, exaggerating or even fabricating the response? This:
The attack left the teacher worried for the safety of her family: “I felt that if I walked out someone was going to be standing there.” But in hindsight, she says, “I think they are very weak men. They use their guns because that’s all they have. If you know what I mean.”
What are the odds that a high school teacher in Plano, Texas would trot-out the “gun guys have a small penis” meme? And if she did, what does that tell you about the character of the comments on the anti-gun side of the ledger? Clearly, Follman has an agenda, too.
What the group hasn’t publicized are some of its members’ more degrading antics. In March, a group of them held a “mad minute” at a firing range, pulverizing a female mannequin with a hail of bullets. They positioned the figure with her hands raised in surrender, naked from the waist up. Afterward, they posed with the bullet-riddled mannequin, her arms blown off and her pants down at her ankles. “Mad minute” is a military expression referring to a burst of rapid fire, and Open Carry Texas members have often referred to Moms Demand Action as “mad moms.”
Implication: a group of Open Carry Texas members want to shoot women and/or sexually violate them. It’s the exact same message Moms Demand Action jefe Shannon Watts has been promoting since her Astroturf org’s inception. Follman gives her a quote on the subject, but I prefer this one from Al Jezeera.
“I didn’t even know that underbelly of America existed,” Watts said of the sexist, misogynistic online comments directed at her as the MDA spokeswoman. “The sexuality that seems to be intertwined with guns. The threats of rape and constant sexual insults and threats seem to be tied in with the very aggressive gun activists.”
There’s irony here; Shannon Watts is a “very aggressive gun activist.”Judging from these comments, Watts is also a misandrist. And Follman’s hero. He gives the former Monsanto PR rep the final word.
The cumulative threats and harassment have at times felt exhausting for women working at the state and local level. “It’s one thing to think about it and see images of it online,” one of the Texas moms told me. “It’s another thing entirely to see this kind of thing out of your car window when you’re driving your kid to soccer practice.”
But they say they have no intention of backing down and are in it for the long haul. “Yes, the threats, slurs, and bullying are shameful and concerning,” says Watts. “But they’re also emboldening. No fight for cultural change comes without this kind of resistance. The reality is that a majority of NRA members and gun owners support the reforms we’re fighting for.”
Uh, no. Follman failed to provide convincing evidence of a coordinated campaign of threats and harassment against anti-gun activists. Just as he failed to put the pro-gun ugliness that does exist – which TTAG removes from its main site and Facebook page – into context. By ignoring examples of anti-gun “extremism” (e.g., death threats against NRA Veep Wayne LaPierre), Follman’s folly is little more than anti-gun agitprop.
And double no. The “reality” is that NRA members oppose the “reforms” on MDA’s agenda. It’s outright, unopposed lies like that which antagonize the less civil members of the pro-gun community. That’s not an excuse. It’s an explanation.