The duel began at dawn on social media.
In the early morning hours of Friday, a day when gun control advocates donned orange to honor victims and survivors of gun violence, the National Rifle Association attempted to stake claim to the color.
National Gun Violence Awareness Day, now in its fourth year, has become an annual call to action on June 1 meant to draw attention to shooting victims by wearing orange — a color traditionally used to evoke safety. The #WearOrange movement was originally started by friends of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago in 2013.
However, the day that meant something much different to the NRA: a chance to fire back in the battle for public opinion.
NRA SOCIAL GOING ORANGE: While Everytown for Gun Safety has devoted close to no resources to making citizens safer, the NRA continues to be the world’s leading gun safety organization since 1871. Send us pics in your orange hunting and NRA gear to be featured. #wearorangepic.twitter.com/16cE7srlZo
— NRA (@NRA) June 1, 2018
“NRA SOCIAL GOING ORANGE: While Everytown for Gun Safety has devoted close to no resources to making citizens safer, the NRA continues to be the world’s leading gun safety organization since 1871,” the group tweeted early Friday.
The tweet came with a call to arms for its members to post pictures of themselves in orange hunting vests in response to the cascade of #WearOrange photos from the other side.
“The NRA is so tone-deaf after all the mass shootings that we have had in recent months that to not only ignore this day, but to actually try to exploit it, is beyond the pale,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, the grass-roots arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, told NBC News.
“They have attempted and failed to co-opt a day to honor gun violence victims and survivors and talk about our nation’s gun crisis in a non-polarizing way.”
But a spokeswoman for the NRA told NBC News that her organization and its six million members take exception to the attempts by advocates like Watts to “hijack” blaze orange — a hue used by hunters in safety vests for far longer than four years.
“For their side, this is a PR stunt, but for the NRA and its law-abiding members, gun safety and training is something we take seriously,” said the spokeswoman.