Ten days after Michael Bloomberg announced a $50 million investment in gun control and proclaimed the National Rifle Association should be afraid of him, the Bloomberg-backed Everytown for Gun Safety group is taking the fight directly to NRA — picking up a chunk of the tab for hundreds of activists and gun violence survivors to attend the annual NRA convention in Indianapolis.
The group said that more than 100 mothers and 20 survivors of gun violence will arrive in Indianapolis on Friday. Everytown is covering the cost of the mothers’ hotels in Indianapolis, and paying the travel and lodging expenses for a group of 20 survivors to be in Indianapolis this weekend, an Everytown spokesperson told BuzzFeed.
Everytown would not disclose how much it was spending on the weekend, but said funds are from a combination of group’s money and fundraising efforts leading up to the convention.
A fundraising email from Shannon Watts, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder and Indianapolis resident, read: “The NRA is coming to my hometown of Indianapolis for their annual convention this weekend. And, frankly, I’m furious.”
Close to 80,000 people are expected in Indianapolis to attend the annual NRA convention, which is being billed as “nine acres of guns under one roof.”
“Everyone thinks our strength comes from money. It doesn’t,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told USA Today Thursday. Our strength is truly in our membership. We have a savvy and loyal voting bloc, and they show up election after election after election.”
“What we don’t have is billions of dollars,” he said.
According to the latest public figures, the NRA amassed more than $250 million in revenue in 2012.
The Bloomberg-backed group’s presence in Indianapolis this weekend serves as a de facto kickoff to its activist efforts.
In an interview with the New York Times, Bloomberg announced his Mayors Against Illegal Guns group will join forces with activist organization Moms Demand Action to form Everytown, an organization of 1,000 mayors and 1.5 million Americans nationwide. In outlining the group’s strategy, Bloomberg said the group will focus heavily on targeting midterm election campaigns and spending against candidates who did not support a bill last year that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers.
Family and friends of victims of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., and at Virginia Tech are among those expected to travel to the convention.
Lucia McBath, Everytown national spokesperson and the mother of Jordan Davis, the teenager who was shot and killed in 2012 in a Jacksonville, Fla., parking lot after an argument over loud music, will also be in Indianapolis.
“[I’m here to] let people see the face of the victims,” McBath told BuzzFeed.
Everytown held a press conference outside the convention Friday and released a report citing egregious positions and tactics by the NRA that Everytown feels subvert public safety.
The report, titled, “Not Your Grandparents’ NRA,” argues that the organization, which was once a community of sportsmen and gun enthusiasts, has lost its way.
The release of the report Friday coincided with the premiere of a new ad produced by Everytown featuring gun violence survivors reading quotes from NRA president Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders.
Nathaniel Pendleton, father of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed in a Chicago park in 2013, is featured in the ad along with his wife, Cleopatra. The Pendletons are also in Indianapolis this weekend. He said being at the convention and being featured in the ad feels “therapeutic.”
“NRA leadership is completely out of step with its own membership,” Watts said. “By fiercely opposing even modest steps to keep guns out of dangerous hands, the NRA’s leadership has shown that its allegiance lies with the gun industry — not with its members.”
Erica Lafferty, daughter of Dawn Hochsprung, the slain principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, is attending her second NRA convention this weekend. Last year at the convention in Houston, Lafferty says she had constructive conversations with NRA members who she says were tricked by the leaders of the organization into believing that expanded background checks meant gun owners would have to register everyone of their firearms on a federal list. “Once they learned that was not true, [the members] were like: why wouldn’t we support background checks?”
Lafferty, who works at Everytown full time as the group’s outreach coordinator, emphasizes that her presence and the presence of others is to send a message to the NRA leadership.
“[NRA leaders] have to look at me and know that my mom was murdered,” Lafferty says. “They can’t pretend that this is a non-issue when they look me in the eye.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Everytown was covering the travel expenses of the mothers’ traveling to Indianapolis.