Gun control groups scrounge for cash, ideas to fight GOP-controlled Congress

Gabrielle Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC seeks guidance after defeats

Gun control groups are scrounging for money and ideas as they prepare for the Republican-controlled Congress, which they expect will continue to thwart stricter firearm laws and move to expand gun rights.

Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, the group founded by gunshot victim and former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, sent an email to supporters soliciting cash and guidance on how to advance its cause in the wake of repeated legislative and election defeats.
The email linked to a survey that asked more than a dozen questions about how to make the group more effective, including whether its efforts should be concentrated on Congress, state legislatures or ballot initiatives.
“We’re asking our supporters to tell us what they think Americans for Responsible Solutions should do next year. Our team has some great ideas, but we want to hear from you,” the email said.

The group did not respond to repeated inquires about its agenda for 2015.

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said he would fight to hold ground in Congress. He said he has set his sights on the next election cycle and the Congress that will convene in 2017.
“We’ll probably be playing a little more defense, but I think we’re optimistic that we’ll be able to tamp down any type of [National Rifle Association] meddling and then be in a better position in 2016 to continue our work,” he said. “We’re not going to be going away. I can tell you that much.”

Mr. Horwitz found a bright spot in election losses that reduced Senate Democrats to minority status: It weeded out red-state Democrats who supported gun rights and left the party united in opposition to the pro-gun agenda.

“It’s going to be a much stronger, unified bunch of Democrats, and I think that is going to be able to hopefully stop most of the NRA’s agenda,” he said.

He said the pro-gun agenda likely would include policy riders on spending bills that would expand concealed carry rights and ease gun laws in the District of Columbia.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam would not confirm the organization’s legislative goals but said it would continue the fight on behalf of gun owners.

“We don’t take anything for granted. If there is one thing we’ve learned, it is the gun ban and gun control advocates are extremely well-funded, they are really adept at exploiting tragedy and nothing, including logic, stops them from pushing their political agenda,” he said.

Candidates endorsed by gun control groups lost to NRA-backed candidates throughout the country this year in contests for governor, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The election defeats followed years of unsuccessfully lobbying for bills that would expand background checks for firearm purchasers and limit the number of bullets in ammunition clips, measures backed by President Obama after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 children and six teachers dead.

Americans for Responsible Solutions fared worse than some other like-minded organizations. It poured resources into trying to re-elect Rep. Ron Barber, a former congressional aide to Ms. Giffords who succeeded her as representative of the Tucson-area district after she was severely injured by gunfire at a rally in 2011.
Mr. Barber, who also was injured in the attack, narrowly lost to Republican Martha McSally in an election dominated by gun issues.

Gun control groups found solace in victories in state legislatures and with ballot initiatives, including a referendum in Washington state that resulted in a law requiring background checks on all firearms sales.

“That was the Washington that mattered last election season. It proved that if politicians won’t act to prevent gun violence, voters will take matters into their own hands,” said Erika Soto Lamb, a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety, a group financed by the personal fortune of former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Everytown will be shifting its focus from Congress next year to legislative fights in as many as 20 states, the group said.

Gun control advocates also pointed to the recent confirmation of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy as evidence that their cause was not completely lost on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Murthy was opposed by the NRA because he advocated for gun control laws and characterized the prevalence of firearms as a public health issue. In his confirmation hearing, however, he pledged not to use his office as a “bully pulpit for gun control.”

Mr. Murthy’s confirmation was pushed through with a batch of nominees in the final days of the session before Democrats ceded power to Republicans.

“We can see that political leaders are listening to what’s happening in the states as they recently confirmed Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in a stunning defeat of the gun lobby’s fight against his nomination,” Ms. Lamb said.
By S.A. Miller – Thursday, January 1, 2015- The Washington Times