Everytown for Gun Safety styles itself as a “movement” of “everyday Americans” working together to make communities safer, but a recent op-ed from a former volunteer is calling that grassroots-led identity into question.
Kate Ranta, a former Everytown Survival Fellow by virtue of a gunshot wound suffered at the hands of her estranged husband, published an op-ed in the Huffington Post blasting the anti-gun organization’s top-down bureaucratic structure.
“For too long, gun control groups like Everytown have implemented top-down organizational models that treat gun violence prevention advocates like servants and gun violence survivors like fundraising fodder, giving us little or no say in our own advocacy. That must end now,” she said.
Her consternation began after learning that Everytown sponsored the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) conference in 2015 and planned to do so again this year. Police organizations attract support from a wide variety of sectors, and this year’s conference was also sponsored by the National Rifle Association, Beretta, and First Tactical.
Volunteering for an organization that planned to appear at the same conference as the NRA was too much for Ranta.
“Nothing prepared me… for the Facebook post I saw this past weekend detailing Everytown’s financial support of the FOP,” she complained. “A friend of mine was looking at FOP’s website when she noticed that Everytown was listed as a sponsor of their upcoming national conference in Nashville — right alongside the NRA, First Tactical, and Beretta — the company that made the handgun my estranged husband shot me with.”
Ranta complained to Everytown headquarters about the FOP’s “noxious” record promoting pro-gun legislation, but she was told to stop using “inflammatory language” and ordered to wait for Everytown to issue a statement on the matter.
Everytown caved to the pressure and pulled out of the conference. But instead of acknowledging their sin, they issued a statement explaining that they left the FOP conference due to the inclusion of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, police officer named Betty Shelby. In 2016 Shelby shot and killed an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher, but was acquitted of all charges.
“We believe the inclusion of former officer Shelby is a gesture that will only inflame the divisions that exist between communities of color and law enforcement,” the statement read.
That wasn’t good enough for Ranta.
“While yes, the participation of Officer Shelby in the conference (on a panel) is very disturbing, that is far from the only criticism that Everytown’s volunteers and survivors have about the FOP,” Ranta said. “Even if Shelby had never been invited to this conference, Everytown’s 2015 and 2017 sponsorship of the conference would have been wrong. That needs to be clear.”
Ranta resigned as an Everytown Survivor Fellow after being blocked by the Survivor Network Facebook page for voicing her concerns about the sponsorship.
“My conclusion is that dissenting voices have no place in these organizations. You toe the line or you’re out,” she said.
Ranta ends her rant by encouraging her readers to join “authentic” anti-gun organizations that “truly run from the local level” and don’t take advantage of survivors and their stories.