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Activists who out-drew Bloomberg are ‘cybersquatting,’ says ‘Everytown’ official

Gun rights activists who temporarily outmaneuvered Michael Bloomberg have been accused of "cybersquatting" on Facebook.
John Moore/Getty Images

Gun rights activists who temporarily beat billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the draw with “Everytown for Gun SafetyFacebook pages are “cybersquatting,” according to messages on Twitter posted today by Everytown Communications Director Erica Lamb, and those pages may soon disappear.

Earlier today, Examiner pulled a column regarding messages on what now appears to be a bogus Everytown Facebook page as Bob Owens at Bearing raised questions about the posts. National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea did likewise. Evidently lots of people were fooled by what now appears to have been a clever Facebook ploy.

Lamb tweeted that “Facebook will remove imposters who are cybersquatting,” and sources familiar with the launch of state-specific clones of the “Everytown” Facebook pages advised Examiner via private e-mail that some of those pages have already apparently been shut down. However, at this writing, scores remained, with pages still existing for virtually every state.

The conflict between Bloomberg’s $50 million effort to create a “grassroots” movement and the genuine grassroots effort involving gun rights activists in the Facebook blitz was notable for its speed. Within hours after Bloomberg initially announced his “Everytown for Gun Safety” project last Wednesday, the cybersquatters had created scores of pro-gun safety Facebook pages. The speed at which this was accomplished underscores the efficiency with which gun rights activists have learned to use the Internet.

These activists did it on a shoestring, too, reinforcing their grassroots image. Two of the main figures involved acknowledged to Examiner that they had never met one another, but worked together across cyberspace to make it all happen.

But pro-gunners are not the only people utilizing the Internet. Today, Tracy Newman, finance director for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR) circulated an e-mail appeal for money to bolster the big-spending campaign for Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure ostensibly aimed at expanding background checks.

This campaign has already out-spent proponents of a competing measure, Initiative 591, by about a two-to-one margin. Yet Newman’s e-mail appeal complained about the money “the gun lobby spent on state and federal candidates in Washington in 2012.”

To counter the perceived big money threat from the gun lobby, WAGR has apparently been approached by some anonymous donor who “has offered to help us close that gap by matching every dollar we raise online from now until the end of April, up to $20,000.” That is not the kind of cash that average grassroots gun rights activists have on hand.

“The gun lobby has a lot of powerful friends,” Newman writes, “and they have nearly limitless piles of cash to both swing elections and lobby in Olympia and Washington. That can be a very powerful combination -- it's kept a lot of commonsense reforms from becoming law.”

Right now, it is WAGR with the “powerful friends” with “limitless piles of cash.” Seattle venture capitalist Nick Hanauer has already contributed more than $200,000 to the I-594 campaign. Bloomberg suggested last week that some of the $50 million he’s spending on “Everytown” could be spent in Washington.

I-594 opponents can only wish they had pockets so deep. But the slick “Everytown” maneuver over the past several days suggests what such activists lack in money they make up for in savvy and gumption. Time will tell if that’s enough.

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