By Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation
With mid-term elections now nearly upon us, candidates, activists and third party groups are scrambling to make their opinions heard by voters before the polls open on Nov. 4. Gun control advocates, such as Mayor Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, have both been active and have spent an unprecedented amount of money in races across the country.
According to reports, Mayor Bloomberg’s PAC (Independence USA) has expended about $5 million this election cycle. Americans for Responsible Solutions has spent almost $7 million this year, with $4.2 million going towards efforts that specifically attack Republican candidates. While other interest groups may have spent more money thus far in the election cycle, gun control groups have a tendency to drop a significant amount of money very close to the elections in last-ditch efforts to persuade undecided voters.
For instance, a little over a week ago, Bloomberg pledged $1.7 million to help Governor Dannel Malloy in his reelection bid in Connecticut. These funds are frequently used to flood the airwaves with attack ads and fill mailboxes with slanderous mail pieces defaming pro-gun candidates.
While gun control groups may believe that this political activism will help them, it is very likely this strategy could end up ultimately hurting their cause. The most recent Gallup poll had three key findings. It found that only 47 percent of Americans believe that gun laws should be stricter, down from a high of 58 percent after the Newtown tragedy – but even that number was lower than the 62 percent who supported stricter gun laws in 2000. It also found that the number of Americans support a handgun ban has dropped to a near-historic low of 26 percent. And finally, it found that Democrats are most likely to support new gun laws.
We report – and on Tuesday, you decide. Second Amendment supporters are rightly famous single-issue voters who are motivated on Election Day if they know their Constitutional rights are at risk. When they see television or radio ads attacking a pro-gun candidate, they become even more motivated to vote in order to protect their rights. A perfect example of this is the 2013 Colorado recall, where gun rights advocates came out to vote in droves to recall two Colorado State Senators who had supported Governor John Hickenlooper’s onerous and ineffective gun control legislation. Mayor Bloomberg’s organization contributed a significant amount of time and resources to those races, yet his candidates still lost.
Even for anti-gun voters, gun control is not their primary impetus when voting on Election Day since other issues are of more importance to them. Because gun control is low on their list of priorities when voting, no number of attack ads or mail pieces against a pro-gun candidate will ever be enough to drive them to vote solely in support of Mayor Bloomberg’s agenda.
Once Election Day 2014 has come and gone, Mayor Bloomberg, Gabby Giffords and other gun control advocates should take stock of the results. They may come to find out that their money did more harm than good in advancing their goals in this year’s races, something they should keep in mind when pondering the future of their respective groups.