The mom behind Target's gun ban

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Gun control activist Shannon Watts, third from right, with her family.

Your gun is not welcome at Target or Chipotle.

And that's not by accident. It all started with one woman's quest to prevent the next Newtown.

"I just couldn't believe what I was seeing on the news: 26 Americans being slaughtered in the sanctity of an elementary school. As a mother of five, this really affected me," said Shannon Watts, who started the Facebook group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Watts launched the Facebook page exactly one day after a man with an assault rifle walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and killed 20 children and six teachers. It was a moment of clarity that galvanized into action the former communications executive who had been a stay at home mom for five years.

From stay at home mom to election campaigner

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The Facebook (FB) page clearly tapped into the angst of parents, increasingly worried about the safety of their children in schools and colleges. The page got hundreds of likes the first day and thousands the first week. Today, it has over 200,000 likes and has grown into a national organization with a chapter in all 50 states.

Within one year, Watts went from being a stay at home mom to penning an opinion piece with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Backed by 30,000 donors, including Bloomberg, Moms Demand Action has become a social media powerhouse with enough heft to pressure big retail stores and restaurant chains to ban open carriers -- customers who openly brandish firearms including AK-47s. Among the stores that this year bowed down to pressure from her are Target (TGT), Chipotle (CMG), Chili's (EAT), Sonic (SONC), Panera (PNRA) and Jack in the Box (JACK).

Watts has now waded into the national political arena by joining a campaign called "Gun Sense Voter," and two weeks ago endorsed 110 state and federal candidates who advocate for gun control. The candidates are running for Congress, governorships and state legislative seats in the upcoming midterm elections.

Watts is speaking at events from the West Coast to New England, hoping to mobilize American moms to vote specifically on gun safety.

I'm not anti-gun

Watts, who lives in a suburb of Indianapolis, insists that she is not anti-gun.

Growing up in Indiana, Watts was raised in a household with a strong gun culture. Her grandfathers owned guns and "were avid hunters."

But Watts does not own a gun. Citing the high rate of suicide among teenagers, Watt says she doesn't want a firearm in a household "full of teens." Her children range in age from 13 to 25.

As a mom, Watts' primary motivation is to keep guns away from harming kids. What worries her most is the epidemic of shootings in public places, which is why a big part of her effort is focused on blocking gun-toting strangers from places frequented by families like restaurants and stores.

Next target: Kroger

Currently, she is taking on the grocery chain Kroger (KR) with an online petition, called #GroceriesNotGuns. The petition has garnered over 300,000 signatures.

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Her organization has released a series of ads (like the one above) that highlights the company's policy of not allowing customers to bring skate boards and outside food (like ice cream) and drinks into its stores. The ads juxtapose them next to a man carrying an assault rifle, who is allowed in.

The ads were featured on a billboard in Cincinnati, Kroger's corporate headquarters, and also ran in print and online editions of USA Today, Cincinnati Enquirer and Columbus Dispatch, among others.

Joining hands with mayors

Everytown for Gun Safety's website released a list of candidates it endorsed for the upcoming elections.

Moms Demand Action has joined forces with Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 1,000 current and former mayors. That group was founded in 2006 by Thomas Menino, the longest-serving mayor in Boston's history, and Bloomberg, who donated $50 million.

Bloomberg has long developed a reputation for taking on the gun industry. As mayor of New York City, he had infuriated the industry by suing gun shops in the south for supplying illegal firearms to violent criminals in New York.

The two organizations -- of moms and mayors -- formed Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella organization with more than two million members nationwide. The campaign endorsing political candidates is backed by Everytown.

Moms vs. gun lobby: Who wins?

The FBI recently reported that mass shootings are on the rise. But Americans disagree on what to do about it.

The National Rifle Association's CEO, Wayne LaPierre, famously declared after the Newtown shootings, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Watts says that her group supports the Second Amendment, much like the NRA. "Many of our moms own guns," she says.

What she wants however, is to keep guns away from psychopaths and take meaningful steps like expanding background checks on gun buyers.

"The gun lobby is very vocal about their fears of their guns getting taken away," she said. "Moms are afraid of our children being taken away, and that's the argument that, I think, will win at the end of the day."

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