Organizing for Action spurs small vigil outside NRA headquarters

Protesters demonstrate outside of the NRA headquarters during a "Day of Action" to promote gun control proposals.
(Matea Gold / Los Angeles Times)

FAIRFAX, Va. — A call by a pro-Obama advocacy group for a “Day of Action” to promote stricter gun laws drew about 30 people Friday morning to a vigil outside the headquarters of the National Rifle Assn., where they held placards denouncing the gun lobby’s opposition to new regulation.

The protesters, dressed mostly in black, marched silently in front of the NRA’s glass-and-concrete building in a suburban Fairfax neighborhood, the quiet punctuated by the occasional honking of cars passing by. “2050 Gun Deaths Since Newtown,” read one sign. “Don’t Want Background Checks? What Are You Afraid Of?” read another.

“What we want to do is prove we’re not afraid of the NRA,” said Joanna Simon, a retired government consultant who organized the vigil as part of the Reston-Herndon Alliance to End Gun Violence, a group of former Obama campaign volunteers.


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A NRA spokesman declined to comment.

The small turnout underscores one of the challenges facing Organizing for Action as it gears up its efforts to promote Obama’s legislative agenda. The group, set up by top advisors to the president, is relying heavily on local volunteers to sustain its work. It is just beginning the process of hiring staff, so Friday’s events were put together by supporters in individual communities, without the databases or technological tools they had access to during the campaign. Those will eventually be made available to local OFA chapters that raise money to lease them.

Simon, who served as a neighborhood team leader for Obama’s reelection campaign, said she was moved to set up an anti-gun violence group after the Dec. 14 killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. She has grandchildren the same age as many of the students who died.

“I kept seeing my grandchildren’s faces and said, ‘OK, it’s time to do something,’” she said. “We’re in a very unique window. This is the one Congress in which I think we can get things done.”

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Simon reached out to her list of volunteer contacts from the Obama campaign to launch the group, which plans to hold vigils in front of the NRA on the 14thof every month at 9:30 a.m., the same time Adam Lanza began the massacre in Newtown.

The anti-gun violence group plans to work in conjunction with OFA, whose Day of Action on Friday marked its first national mobilization since launching in January. The activities serve as a first test of the political muscle of OFA, which hopes to draw on the 2.2 million volunteers that helped power Obama’s reelection campaign.

More than 100 volunteer-organized events in 80 congressional districts were set to be held Friday, including a candlelight vigil at the Atlanta University Center in Georgia, a rally on the steps of the state house in Boston and a leaflet drive at the Staten Island ferry terminal in Manhattan. The aim of the events: to pressure congressional lawmakers to support closing background check loopholes, part of Obama’s proposal to reduce gun violence.

“What we’re doing today is giving people hope that this issue isn’t going to fade away,” said Gloria McVeigh, a former Obama campaign neighborhood team leader who helped organize a rally outside GOP Rep. Charlie Dent’s office in Allentown, Pa.

To buttress the effort, OFA began running its first ad campaign Friday, a series of online ads targeting 13 GOP legislators, including four California House members.

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Twitter: @mateagold