September 29, 2022

Gun safety group announces $10 million for battleground state races

A prominent gun safety advocacy group is ready to spend big to boost Democrats who last month supported Congress’ most significant gun policy package in nearly 30 years — and attack Republicans who opposed it.

The $10 million investment by Giffords PAC, first disclosed to POLITICO, will go toward local, state and federal elections in Texas and Florida, which have both seen tragic mass shootings, as well as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Colorado, all key battlegrounds that will determine whether Democrats keep their majority.

Giffords PAC has already endorsed Democratic incumbents Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and backed Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania. The group has not endorsed in Wisconsin’s open Democratic primary to take on Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

“This investment will absolutely be used to support champions who voted for the bill and in other cases we’ll be able to shine a light on the fact that their elected representative did not vote for this bill,” said Robin Lloyd, managing director at Giffords.

The money is expected to go toward television and digital ads, as well as organizing efforts and public events.

The latest investment from Giffords highlights the potential political implications of the gun safety package, which had full support from congressional Democrats, as well as backing from 15 GOP senators and 14 House Republicans. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the lead Democratic negotiator, said in a recent interview that he’d “absolutely” campaign against those who voted against the bill. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who supported the legislation, said he hoped that it would help Republicans with suburban voters.

In a statement, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who started the group after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, said the investment is “designed to keep communities safe by giving more gun violence prevention advocates a seat at the table in city commission meetings, state legislatures, and the halls of Congress.”

Giffords, who was shot in the head outside a supermarket in 2011, is married to Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.). The couple co-founded the gun safety group with Peter Ambler, the group’s executive director. Giffords PAC, however, is not spending in Arizona, another Senate battleground, given that Kelly is up for reelection this year.

The bipartisan package closed the “boyfriend loophole” by broadening firearms restrictions of individuals who have abused their dating partners; provided states with grants to implement so-called red flag laws or crisis intervention programs; and required the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to contact state authorities to see if an individual under the age of 21 seeking to purchase a gun had disqualifying juvenile criminal records.

Lloyd said Congress’ passage of the legislation allows groups like Giffords to talk about where lawmakers and candidates stand with more specificity.

“It just provides us a unique opportunity in that we actually can educate voters in a much more thoughtful way because there’s a real vote to point to,” Lloyd said. “A vote is a very clear way to illustrate where somebody stands on an issue.”

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