Toni Gallego knew what she was going to get her granddaughter for her birthday. She knew the store where she was going to get it, too. She shopped at Target all the time, buying formula and diapers. Then she saw the picture: long, black rifles in the big box store's toy aisle. The day before, she had dropped $160 there. She said she hasn't been back since.
Gallego, a retired educator, said she's never supported the use of guns. She hates that her two sons have them. Recently, she saw that Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an organization that advocates for the sensible use of guns, was to host a "Stroller Jam" outside Target's shareholders' meeting. Come moms, with your strollers, and show Target it should prohibit open carry in its stores. With her granddaughter in a stroller, Gallego made her way to a shady corner of Ferris Plaza Park, across the street from Union Station in downtown Dallas, around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
"I won't be back until they change," Gallego told me. She then added she wanted to be able to go to a park or a restaurant with her granddaughter and not have to worry about "gun-toting cowboys." She said the open-carry guys seemed to be reinforcing every bad stereotype about Texas.
As we spoke, a group of middle-aged mothers wearing dark blue "Gun Sense Voter" T-shirts held up signs that read "Texas Moms Expect More." Stephanie Lundy, who'd driven up from Houston to be the main media liaison for the demonstration, gave one of her many interviews that day to a TV station. She wore cowboy boots and a skirt she'd bought at Target.
Earlier, Lundy (second from the right in the picture above) told me the group of women were there to ask Target to put a nationwide policy in place to prevent men and women from openly carrying in the store. "Moms love Target. I love Target," she said. "As a matter of fact when I got dressed this morning, I put on this skirt. I love this skirt. It's my Target skirt, as are many things in my wardrobe and in my pantry at my house. We want to be able to shop there, and we want to be able to shop there safely." She wanted people in Texas to know that there are no background checks required to buy a gun here.
When I ended my interview with Gallego (second from the left in the picture above), another reporter stepped up to talk to her. And another after that. Camera tripods formed a half-circle around the group. At one point, I counted 17 reporters and 12 demonstrators, with Gallego having the only stroller. Another woman would soon join them. Near the end, two men would as well. A total of 15. Lundy said she was happy with the turnout. It is summertime, she said, and school's out; mothers have other things to do.
The other mothers were from the metroplex. They wouldn't give their last names, instead pointing me toward Lundy or another woman who was designated to speak to the press, who was also not giving her last name. They said that was to keep the message on point. (Gallego apparently had not gotten the message about the message).
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From what I could gather, though, there was a common thread among them: They were mothers and avid Target shoppers who were incensed over the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and now had to do something about guns. Lundy told me that the night she heard the news out of Newtown, she was at a cocktail party with her husband, who works in the oil and gas industry. The women, she said, looked stricken. The men, community and business leaders, talked about whether their guns would be taken away. It disturbed her enough to get involved with Moms Demand Action. The pictures of rifles in Target only inflamed Lundy and the other moms more, so here they were.
Open Carry Texas had no presence at the demonstration, but CEO CJ Grisham dismissed the event in an email to Unfair Park.
"This protest they are doing is a show," he wrote. "They only serve to bully businesses into submission. They have tried to hijack all mothers as supporters of gun control, ignoring millions of mothers who carry firearms in defense of themselves and their children. Thousands of members of Open Carry Texas are mothers and feel differently. We don't have time to bully businesses with political issues or agendas they shouldn't have to deal with in the first place. Their focus should be on providing high quality service and products to its customers."
Send your story tips to the author, Sky Chadde.