Milwaukee Mayor’s Staff Used Shootings to Push Anti-Gun Agenda

In the aftermath of the Azana Spa shooting in October of 2012, and the Newtown Connecticut school shooting in December of 2012, a staff member for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett used the incidents as public relations opportunities to champion the agenda of the liberal advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. E-mails obtained through open records requests reveal Barrett staffers working with MAIG officials in New York City to spin the tragedies as proof of the need for more gun control.

On Sunday, October 21 a gunman, Radcliffe Haughton, opened fire at the Azana Spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin. The shooter was a Milwaukee County resident with a history of domestic violence. Law enforcement in Milwaukee County, including the District Attorney’s office, failed to follow up on numerous run-ins Haughton had with local law enforcement.

Less than 24 hours after the shooting, Paula DeHaan, the regional coordinator for MAIG who works for Barrett in the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention, sent an e-mail to Brian Levinson, who works for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MAIG, giving him a run down on details of the shooting as they were known at the time.

DeHaan e-mailed Barrett and Patrick Curley, Barrett’s chief of staff, the Tuesday after the shooting to seek advice on how to spin the news that the shooter obtained his weapon illegally and that the spa had a no-weapons policy. DeHaan remarked that the developments “have legislative impact.”

Another Barrett staffer replied to the e-mail saying that the developments presented an opportunity to push a political cause. “[I]t could be a good opportunity for us to do some press calling for closing the background check loophole,” wrote Jennifer Gonda. DeHaan replied to Gonda, and included Barrett and Curley on the e-mail, saying she was already reaching out to other mayors in Wisconsin to see if they wanted to help spin the developments in support of MAIG’s gun-control positions. “I have been reaching out to our other MAIG mayors and they seem interested in participating in some kind of messaging,” she wrote.

Later on Tuesday, DeHaan and other Barrett staffers communicated back and forth with MAIG staffers on Bloomberg’s staff in New York City about Barrett issuing a statement pushing for gun control legislation in the wake of the Brookfield shooting. The staffers disagreed on the timing of Barrett’s statement, but not the need for the statement or public relations goal of the statement.

Proof of the eventual success of the strategy of politicizing the Brookfield shooting came in April 2013, in a lengthy and agenda-driven New York Times story on the national push for gun control measures.

When the Newtown Connecticut school shooting took place in December of 2012, e-mails sent from Bloomberg’s MAIG staff to Barrett staffers the day after the shooting sought to set up a conference call to discuss political messaging in the wake of the tragedy. “[W]e need to brief you on all the latest information on this end, and have a discussion about what kind of steps the coalition will be taking in the days and weeks ahead,” wrote an anti-gun policy advisor for MAIG.

The Wednesday after the Newtown shooting, MAIG’s national policy advisor, Colin Weaver, reached out to Barrett staffers and others asking them to help formulate a review of gun control initiatives at the state level.

“I need each of you to identify the state legislators in your state that have come out and 1) called for stronger gun laws and/or 2) promised to introduce specific legislation. Please identify official statements and press clips with links to each of these instances. I also would like a couple of paragraphs describing how you think Newtown changed the state legislative landscape for guns.”

On Barrett’s staff, DeHaan is paid with money given from large liberal foundations run to the City of Milwaukee.

Supporting Documents

call about ct
draft language from barrett sent by MAIG
looking for info on state proposals
MAIG wants quote from mayor barrett
MIAG pushes barrett to make a statement
Paul emails NYC about spa
paulina keeps MAIG updated after SIKH shooting
paulina other MAIG to get together on messaging