As mass shootings riddled the front page of newspapers across the United States in 2012, it left a Nation stunned and searching for answers. Maine Street Solutions was approached by several groups in Maine that wanted to enact legislation on a myriad of gun related issues from background checks to bans. Over the course of 60 days, MSS worked with a coalition of diverse Maine organizations from hunters and former prosecutors to medical associations and church groups to help them form a loose coalition under the banner of “Coalition for a Safer Maine” and find common ground on what bills to advocate for and support in the 125th. The premise of the Coalition was to help education Mainers about the issues; the challenge was to be effectively heard in a gun-friendly state like Maine.
While over 89% of the Maine public were in favor of creating a penalty for selling a gun or a convicted fellow or other illegal buyer, the Coalition knew that it was facing tough opposition from some organized gun groups that had strong ties in Augusta. From these insights, Maine Street Solutions structured a grassroots and earned media campaign that focused on mobilizing both key influential leaders and the general public in specific targeted legislative districts.
The campaign drove these grassroots and grasstops efforts by employing PR strategies to educated the public and motivate and drive them to call in to legislators, lobby at the state house, and write in to newspapers. In addition, Maine Street Solutions began gathering a group of key stakeholders including former US Attorneys, mayors, and former police chiefs to act as the face of the coalition. The media campaign included an interactive website, press conferences featuring influential leaders speaking on the issue, op ed pieces, and mass call ins to legislative targets.
When the Coalition’s criminal background check bill hit the floor in 2013, the media campaign was implemented and the members of the legislature were well informed on the issue. The bill faced obstacles in both houses of the legislature, but the final vote was a success with it winning in the Senate by one vote.
The criminal background check legislation was the only gun-related legislation that was successfully voted through in 2012 legislative session. As the sponsor of the legislation said, “we’ve accomplished a lot more than people realize.”