Staying On Message When Tragedy Strikes

Staying On Message When Tragedy Strikes

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Kristin Simonetti
August 12, 2015

In the first installment of TWC's Alumni Spotlight Series, Chris Myers '11 shares thoughts on lessons he's learned during a very busy summer in America's debate over guns.

___

 

Chris Myers '11, an individual giving associate for The Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence, spends his days drumming up financial support for his cause. But what happens when that cause becomes breaking news blaring across the Twitterverse? How does one harness - without exploiting - the power of human tragedy to advance an organization's mission? Myers shared thoughts about that balance and lessons he's learned from the front lines of America's debate over guns.

 

Professionally speaking, what's the first move you make after hearing about a mass shooting like the ones we've seen in Charleston and Lafayette, La., this summer?

 

Job one is to get the facts straight. I work on the development side of the organization, but sometimes I'll get a call from the media because I'll be the first person they get through to after seven or eight tries. I always transfer the caller back to our communications team and let them know our press secretary will be in touch wtih them as soon as our ducks are in a row. The last thing I want to do is give the media or a donor an incorrect statistic and then have to backtrack.

 

Many people on the other side of your issue accused your organization and others of politicizing a tragedy. What's your response to that?

 

It's like any topic where there are two passionate sides. People need to take a minute and listen to one another. You don't have to agree with one another right then and there. Resolution on these kind of issues is a progressive process. The Brady Campaign is committed to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people whom we all agree shouldn't have them. Gun violence is a very real problem in America, killing 89 people every day. This goes well beyond the mass shootings we're talking about today. The Brady Campaign's team has helped increase the public's participation in and support of our mission to cut gun deaths in half by 2025.

 

But would you say events like Charleston or Louisiana, though tragic, boost your cause in a way?

 

They bring our issue to light and into the national conversation. Some people are fueled to donate immediately or help in other ways. For example, we were able to raise enough funds to send two busloads of people from Charleston to speak on Capitol Hill in support of H.R. 1217 last month [Editor's Note: H.R. 1217 amends the existing Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to improve the process of background checks for gun purchases]. Many of them lost loved ones in the Charleston shooting. We've been able to do a lot of proactive things to get the word out because the issue of gun violence is in the national spotlight.

 

When you see something like the shootings in Charleston or Louisiana - events you've spent so much time and energy trying to prevent - how do you stay motivated to keep going?

 

We lost Sarah Brady, Jim [Brady]'s wife, earlier this year. I saw her speak numerous times, and she always reminded us: It takes time. It took seven years and six votes to pass the original Brady Bill. The effort continues today, and we have more support than ever before. That's the motivation for what we do internally, and I remind myself of that. We can make change. We can turn the tide.

 

About the organization: The Brady Campaign & Center to Prevent Gun Violence is the only national organization dedicated to transforming America's attitudes and behaviors around guns. Learn more at www.bradycampaign.org.

 

About the Alumni Spotlight Series: Produced by the TWC Communications Team, these articles promote the achievements and contributions of our alumni by giving them the opportunity to share insights and expertise with the TWC community. Articles will be posted to this website on an occasional basis.

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More