The ads are direct, to the point and jarring. A girl in pigtails and a pink dress stands in the freezer aisle of a grocery store holding an ice cream cone. Next to her is a man in jeans and a T-shirt with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.
The tagline reads: “Attention Shoppers: Kroger doesn’t permit outside food and drink inside their stores. So why would they allow this loaded gun?”
Variations on the theme include: a man without a shirt and a kid with a skateboard, all prohibited in the largest grocery chain in the country, and yet customers are allowed to openly carry guns in its stores.
The ads are the brainchild of a group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It was formed in the wake of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre by Shannon Watts, a mother of five from an Indianapolis suburb who created a Facebook page calling for moms to mobilize. “I started this page because, as a mom, I can no longer sit on the sidelines,” she wrote. “I am too sad and too angry.”
Equally incensed by the tragedy, Linda Brundage of East Lansing, a psychologist, mom, grandmother and great grandmother, decided “as Gabby Gifford said, ‘Enough is enough.’ ” Within days, she held a meeting at her home and 22 like-minded friends formed the first Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action. Brundage is the state coordinator. (Three additional chapters are in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and in Oakland County.)
Moms Demand Action models its organization after the hugely successful grassroots group “Mothers Against Drunk Driving.” While it advocates for “common sense, middle ground solutions” to the problem of gun violence, Brundage is adamant about stressing: We understand and support the Second Amendment. We are not about taking people’s guns away. We do, however, want to change the gun culture.”
To that end, the moms are focusing on open carry of firearms as a way to curb the prevalence of guns in public places. (“Open carry” is legal in most states, including Michigan.)
In East Lansing on Wednesday, Brundage and about a dozen other members of Moms Demand Action attempted to carry signs depicting the ads into a reopening of a Kroger store on Holmes Avenue. While they complied with security’s request to not bring the signs in the store — “Moms, after all, have manners,” Brundage quipped — they did have a “good dialogue” with one of the managers.
“We encouraged him to think about taking his child into Kroger to pick out cereal and be confronted with an assault weapon,” Brundage said. “Most shoppers don’t want to feel forced to determine whether the person in aisle five with an assault rifle is a ‘good guy’ with a gun or a ‘bad guy’ with a gun. How would someone possibly know the difference?”
In less than two years, Moms Demand Action has convinced major corporations like Starbucks and Target to prohibit firearms in their stores. Social media has played a huge role. In May 2013, when Second Amendment activists began showing up in Starbucks openly packing, Moms Demand Action encouraged coffee lovers to #SkipStarbucks on Saturdays and post pictures having coffee elsewhere. In four months, firearms were no longer welcome on Starbucks premises.
As of this week, Brundage says the petition asking Kroger to change its policy regarding firearms has collected upward of 200,000 signatures. When asked by a Lansing reporter how long her group planned to boycott, Brundage didn’t skip a beat. “For as long as it takes,” she said. “We will do whatever it takes to make our communities safe.”