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Advocacy group sees shift toward tighter regulations on guns

Sep 6, 2019

Credit momsdemandaction.org

The founder of an organization dedicated to protecting people from gun violence is pleased with the momentum she’s seen toward that effort this past week.

It was a pretty good week for ShannonWatts, whose organization, ‘Moms Demand Action,’ has mobilized social media and other support over the last several years as part of their effort to toughen gun laws.

Rochester-based Wegmans, along with Walmart, Kroger, CVS and Walgreens all joined the chorus of retailers requesting that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms in their stores even where the state law allows that.

On Thursday, Wegmans released a tweet saying that it prefers customers not openly carry firearms into its stores.  New York state already restricts that practice, but open carry is allowed in some of the other states Wegmans operates in.

Watts says social media likely helped spur Wegmans and other organizations, but it wasn’t just the comments seen on Twitter that had an impact.

“It was certainly social media pressure but because we have this army of grassroots volunteers across the country, those tweets and posts translate into calls and emails and Wegmans told our callers that they were hearing a lot from us and our desire for them to change our open carry policy, and that’s what worked,” Watts said.

Watts was particularly gratified by the Wegmans decision since she grew up in the Rochester area. 

“Some of my very earliest memories are of grocery shopping at Wegmans with my mom, and so, yes, it was very poignant for me that I had spoken with Wegmans leaders in 2015; they were not even close to changing their policy and that they  have made this significant change in five years is very meaningful,” Watts explained.

Walmart and other big national chains cater to all kinds of customers with different views on guns but store policies have recently been trending toward more restrictions.

Watts does see the work that Moms Demand Action and other organizations have been involved with for several years paying off.

"It sends a strong cultural signal, particularly to the gun lobby, when companies change their stance. And for a long time Wegmans was perfectly fine with open carry, and now they’re saying that they oppose it. So, that is a significant shift and it gives us momentum in statehouses and in board rooms, that we can eventually use to point Congress in the right direction," Watts said.

Watts says her group is not anti-gun, but they want to see responsibilities attached to Americans' gun rights.