The push for new gun-control measures following the Parkland, Florida, shooting that killed 17 people is high-profile and public: Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have blanketed the airwaves, spurred nationwide student walkouts, and featured in a CNN town hall meeting grilling Florida's pro-gun Senator Marco Rubio. The grass-roots effort to blunt this momentum by the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm has been much quieterand conducted largely out of sight, through a mobile app.
As lawmakers return to Washington this week under pressure to act on guns, the NRA is directing members' activism at the audience that matters most: Congress. Republican congressional leaders have had little to say; the NRA hasn't sponsored marches or rallies. But in mid-February the mobile app of the NRA's Institute of Legislative Action urged users to send pre-written tweets that automatically route to their individual members of Congress, telling them to "Protect our constitutional right to self-defense; Defend the #2A! #DefendTheSecond."
A few days later, the NRA app, drawing on users' personal data, offered to connect them to their legislators so they could "Ask Your Lawmakers to Oppose New Gun Control." Members of Congress were quickly besieged with a coordinated message that cut against the #NeverAgain movement dominating newspapers and cable television. And after President Trump's comments in favor of gun control at a bipartisan White House meeting yesterday, the White House switchboard number, posted within the app, was also likely besieged.