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Flowers are good. Guns are bad.

by Dr. Michael S. Brown


One year ago, the Million Mom March used free bus rides and free entertainment to lure tens of thousands of people to their anti-gun rally in Washington, D.C. This Mother's Day saw a greatly scaled back effort, with small rallies held in several cities.

The event staged by the MMM in Seattle on May 12, 2001 provided an interesting insight into the character of the organization at the local level. Billed as a "Safe Kids Rally", it was held inside a food court building at the foot of the Space Needle. At least a hundred people dropped in to receive free flowers and view parts of the program, which consisted of an ongoing three-hour stage show and a dozen tables where information was offered by various groups and agencies.

The stage program was striking in its simplicity and emotionalism. The majority of those who appeared were children, singing simple songs and performing skits that would be appropriate in a grade school. The Moms apparently do not promote deep thinking and have no qualms about exploiting children for political gain.

An adult speaker who appeared to be associated with a teacher's union urged the audience to go into a school, grab a child, any child, and give them a big hug. He did not say how to avoid being arrested.

The most memorable slogan of the day, printed on numerous shirts, was: "Flowers are good. Guns are bad." Some Million Mom members wore shirts announcing their desire to ban all guns. This of course contradicts the official line that says they don't want to ban guns.

A flyer handed out at the information tables described the Million Moms' 35 full time employees and its office at San Francisco General Hospital. The table workers were completely unaware that 30 of those employees were recently fired and the organization was thrown out of its free office space for alleged improprieties.

The overall atmosphere of the event bore an uncanny resemblance to the peace movement of the 1960's. Troublesome thoughts about individual rights and self-defense were ignored as the participants concentrated on producing a mind-numbing wave of peace and love. One observer, recalling his long-ago hippie days, thought the participants were in a state of mind known as "blissed out". Another was reminded of a technique called "love bombing" practiced by religious cults.

Outside the building, a group of about 80 enthusiastic gun rights activists gathered to protest the aims of the MMM. They debated with people passing by and displayed signs with hard-hitting slogans about self-defense and the role of government. Women leaving the anti-gun love-fest held up long stemmed flowers like crosses, as if to ward off uncomfortable thoughts.

Several Seattle police officers were assigned to watch the protestors, but they turned out to be quite well behaved. In keeping with the generally laid back culture of Seattle, the protesters were free to lay down their signs and enter the building, either to observe the program or refuel at the food court restaurants.

One pro-rights activist played a small trick on the MMM members which may be instructive. He offered a stack of signs to people who were handing out anti-gun literature at the information tables. The signs, designed to be displayed on the front of a residence, said "Gun Free Home". These are usually offered to anti-gun people as an insult, since one would have to be an idiot to display such an open invitation to criminals. In this case however, the blissed-out MMM volunteers happily distributed the signs to bewildered soccer moms.

It might seem that such an incompetent and illogical group could never hope to have an influence on public policy, but there is more to this story.

The event was well covered by at least three Seattle TV stations and two newspapers. The pro-rights demonstrators, despite plenty of signs, banners, balloons and thought provoking speeches were almost totally ignored. The media instead showed pictures of children making Mother's Day cards and sound bite interviews with well-rehearsed "gun violence" victims.

One reason for this biased coverage was the brilliant choice of Mona Lee Locke as the guest of honor. The photogenic former local newscaster and wife of Washington Governor Gary Locke is a media magnet and very influential with her old colleagues at area news outlets. It would have been difficult for them to provide positive exposure to anyone who opposes her policies.

This was another harsh lesson for supporters of civil rights. Logical arguments are useless against an emotional message specifically tailored for a biased media. It is also a mistake to dismiss the Million Mom March based on the flower power theme and zombie-like performance of its foot soldiers. There are sharp minds running the show, at least in Seattle. They know how to manipulate their supporters and the media. Their disingenuous tactics make it hard to discern their real goals, but it's a safe bet that they won't stop until they get what they want.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is a member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws,

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