NRA-Gabrielle Giffords fight heats up

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This is a Reblogged from


  • A composite of Gabrielle Giffords and a scene from the 2013 NRA annual meeting in Houston is shown. | Reuters

The pre-2014 posturing on both sides is starting early. | Reuters

The Senate voted down a gun control measure last month, but the fight is just beginning.

The National Rifle Association and new pro-gun control groups headed by former Rep. Gabby Giffords and Michael Bloomberg are in an arms race since a background check bill narrowly failed in the Senate last month – ramping up their fundraising, airing attack ads and revving up their grassroots machines.

PHOTOS: Congressional career of Gabby Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords (left) is joined by John Boehner on the floor of the House.

Giffords stars in gun control ad
There was a time when a failed gun bill might have quietly slipped off the stage. But the dynamics have shifted, since the NRA is no longer the only group in the gun debate with money, power and some signs of staying power.

(PHOTOS: Will these guns be banned again?)

On Wednesday morning, the NRA announced a $25,000 television week-long television ad buy to support Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who’s been under attack by gun control groups on the airwaves and in town halls for her vote on the Senate bill.

Just hours later, Giffords’ gun control group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, hit back – announcing it raised more than $11 million in its first four months of operation – a staggering figure even in the age of super PACs and big outside money groups.

(PHOTOS: Gabrielle Giffords’s congressional career)

The early – and aggressive — posturing on both sides is a clear sign that guns aren’t gone in the run-up to the 2014 midterms.

“The resource mismatch was always extreme and now it is basically gone,” said Matt Bennett, of the moderate think tank Third Way, which supports strengthening gun control laws. “So you’ve got two heavy-weights and they are battling instead of a pushover against a champ.”

Giffords’ group couched their fundraising stats as evidence they’re here for the long-haul.

“Our early success at building a powerful network of committed activists – and the strength of that network – shows that the issue of reducing gun violence in America isn’t going away,” said ARS executive director and co-founder Pia Carusone. “The hundreds of thousands of members and donors who’ve joined Gabby and Mark in just our first four months show that Americans know that we can protect the 2nd amendment and make our communities safer. Americans want their elected officials to be honest and to lead with courage.”

(PHOTOS: Politicians speak out on gun control)

The group also reported it had 366,000 members and received donations from roughly 53,500 donors. The group did not respond to requests for information on donors and whether the bulk came from large contributors like the effort back by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Still, the NRA is a formidable force. Since the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the NRA’s membership has grown to a record 5 million, according to the group’s president Wayne LaPierre. The group has also built up a veritable war chest, spending $18 million on the 2012 election.

Democrats suffered a decisive defeat in the Senate even on the compromise issue of background checks. And even if the groups on the left can change some minds in the Senate, it’s unclear gun control would even come to a vote in the House.

Meanwhile, the gun control movement’s pressure campaign is about to ramp up. Bloomberg’s group Mayor’s Against Illegal Guns has discussed going up with ads soon in Alaska, Arkansas and North Dakota. The decision would be significant since it means they would be attacking Democratic lawmakers.

Third Way’s Bennett said there was never even a thought of easing the pressure.

“This wasn’t like, oh, my God, we’re on the floor we have to regroup,” Bennett said. “The next step is to select a group of targets, pressure them, talk to them about what changes would be required to get their vote and move forward.”

Following the background check vote, Americans for Responsible Solutions also did four “thank you” ads applauding Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) for their vote. They also did two attack ads hitting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The gun lobby isn’t taking the offensive sitting down.

In addition to the New Hampshire ad, the NRA is also prepping a nationwide member mailer with the same mail piece going to non-member lists in select states, including New Hampshire and Arizona, according to NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam.

And last week, NRA leaders warned thousands of members at the group’s annual meeting that President Barack Obama and gun control supporters are determined to take away some of their 2nd Amendment rights.

LaPierre told the crowd that the Senate background check measure “is but one skirmish in what can only be defined as one long war against our Constitutional rights.”

He promised that the NRA will go the distance in the fight, which he characterized as a “once in a generation fight for everything we care about.”

Still, the fundraising push isn’t necessarily a surprise. Often when social issues enter the fray in Congress or in the courts, groups will use the issue – whether it’s abortion or guns — to bring attention to their cause and raise money for it.

Veteran communications strategist Rich Masters said that while some of the effort is on public policy, much of these campaigns are about raising money.

“The NRA has not had a boogey man in many, many years. And so as a result for not having a boogey man they’ve made up all these boogey men,” Masters said. “The anti-gun crew also really hasn’t had a rally cry because they’ve been beaten down so long by the NRA.”

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