Groups like March for Our Lives and the Brady PAC are mobilizing to defeat senators who oppose gun control legislation in the aftermath of two mass shootings that have shaken the country.
The focus on shaping gun control legislation comes after two separate shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend resulted in more than 30 people dead.
Gun control groups mobilized in 2018, outspending the National Rifle Association (NRA) for the first time, to help Democrats take over the House.
Democrats then followed up by passing anti-gun legislation. But that legislation has stalled in the Senate where Republicans have a 53-47 advantage, giving urgency to the push by activists to target senators who have opposed stronger gun control laws.
The chief focus for these groups this time around will be defeating senators in battleground states, mainly Republican Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerGun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate Gun control group releases ad asking McConnell for background checks vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump vows federal response to Ohio, Texas shootings MORE (Colo.), Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisGun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate Businesses, farmers brace for new phase in Trump trade war The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (N.C.), Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump vows federal response to Ohio, Texas shootings ‘Medicare for All’ complicates Democrats’ pitch to retake Senate MORE (Ariz.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate McConnell: Gun background checks will be ‘front and center’ in Senate debate Graham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 MORE (Maine) and Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstGun control activists set to flex muscle in battle for Senate Businesses, farmers brace for new phase in Trump trade war Overnight Energy: Trump EPA looks to change air pollution permit process | GOP senators propose easing Obama water rule | Green group sues EPA over lead dust rules MORE (Iowa).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBloomberg: McConnell may allow gun reform vote to boost reelection chances Tim Ryan: ‘White supremacists think that Donald trump is a white supremacist’ Conway: Republican concerns about gun reform ‘all reconcilable’ MORE (R-Ky.) will also be in focus as he faces challenger Amy McGrath, who has slammed the senator over his record on gun control after the two mass shootings.
Like in 2018, the groups are likely to ramp up spending, including with attack ads, in the lead-up to the 2020 Senate races, while organizing town halls and voter registration drives for young people.
“As far as the Senate, we’re setting up town halls in several states, including Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and several others, and we’re going to be inviting both candidates just to ask them about their stances on the issues that we care about and making sure that they’re held accountable for stances that they’ve taken in the past,” Charlie Mirsky, the co-founder and political director of March for Our Lives, told The Hill.
March for Our Lives, which was launched by students following the Parkland, Fla., shooting in 2018, is also focusing their strategy in large part, on bringing young people into the political fold to advocate for gun control.
“We’re also going to be doing extensive voter registration in all of these Senate states, and of course, we’re going to be focused on the House races as well, but especially in these key Senate states that are so close, and some of these states that are turning from red to purple or blue to purple,” Mirsky added.
Republicans being targeted by gun control activists have generally received high marks from the NRA. Gardner and Ernst received an “A” rating from the NRA in their last Senate races in 2014, while Tillis had an “A+” rating.
They have also received heavy financial backing from pro-gun groups. McSally, for example, ranked 22nd in Congress on receiving NRA and NRA political action committee money.
Collins has had a more moderate stance, having signaled support for a number of gun control efforts, including a red-flag plan and closing background check loopholes, but a group of more liberal Democratic challengers are fighting to take her on next year.