The temperature in Cook, Minnesota, was abnormally high on February 14, and so was Judith Pearson’s blood pressure.
The 73-year-old retiree had been stewing over the latest massacre visited upon innocent students, this one in Parkland, Florida, which saw 17 people killed by a former student. For Pearson, a former school principal, it was the last straw.
Pearson was fed up. She’d had enough "thoughts and prayers." It was getting late, so before she went to bed, she decided to air her frustration to her roughly 20 Twitter followers.
“I tweeted to lower my blood pressure,” she said. “Then it just went viral.”
As a retired school principal, I am so tired of "thoughts and prayers" which are substance-less condolences! Lets have a law outlawing AR 15s and paying a substantial bonus to all that are turned in! #boycottNRA— Judith Pearson (@judypearson) February 16, 2018
Pearson kept right on tweeting. Speaking on behalf of gun owners who are sick of taking the blame for the NRA’s paralyzing grip on the government, Pearson’s outspoken tweets have landed her photo in the New York Times, which called Pearson "one of the first participants in what became a sprawling campaign to force corporate America to dissociate itself with the gun lobby."
The NRA boycott movement has picked up steam in the days and weeks following the Parkland shooting, with several major companies ending discounts afforded to NRA members or cutting ties financially. The NRA has lost support from such big-name corporations as United and Delta Airlines; car rental companies Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz; hotel chain Best Western; the insurance companies MetLife and Lockton; and more.
In the photo accompanying Pearson's appearance in the Times, she stares right back at the camera, stone-faced and packin’.
And boy, is Pearson packin’. She estimates that she has “more than a dozen” guns, which she and her husband have used to bag deer, moose, ducks, geese, and clay pigeons alike. They cook and eat what they shoot too -- except the clay pigeons, “they don’t cook so good.”
But Pearson keeps her guns in a locked safe, and she’s not a member of the NRA. A lifelong gun owner, she said she remembers a time when the NRA was just a gun club that provided education and safety. She’s had it with their identity politics as of late.
“Eight years I remember people telling me Obama’s coming for your guns,” she said. “He never came for my guns. The fear tactics are ridiculous.”
Pearson’s malcontent with the NRA has struck a chord in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting, and she’s gotten a lot of support from her fellow sports-folk in the northland, many of whom share her frustration.
“It pisses us off. It’s almost like it’s done in our name.”
Pearson’s career in public defiance didn’t start with guns, though. In 1986, Pearson applied to be principal of Cook High School, and says she was told “hell would freeze over” before the school hired a woman. She sued for sex discrimination and won, becoming principal six years later. She remembers when the Columbine school shooting happened, and was loath to see the conversation turn on the same types of children she worked with every day — the bullied and the outcast.
“I supervised kids like those kids,” she said. “The kids have to get the help they need, but that’s almost a separate issue. The focus has to be on the guns.”
As a retired high school principal, I would resign before I would carry a gun or supervise a school with armed teachers!! I hunt with rifles and shotguns and I shoot competitively but guns do not belong in schools! #BoycottNRA— Judith Pearson (@judypearson) February 23, 2018
Pearson is still tweeting, and she intends to continue carrying the hashtag #BoycottNRA until something real is done to stop someone from walking into a school with a rifle—not arming teachers, which she said would make schools more dangerous; not mental illness, which she thinks is just a distraction politicians on the NRA’s payroll throw out; and certainly not thoughts and prayers.
“These guns are weapons of war. They don’t belong in our streets,” she said. “Go join the army if you’ve got to shoot these guns to feel like a man.”