WASHINGTON – A gun-control organization led by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, outlined plans Tuesday to support candidates in at least 11 congressional races this year who have backed efforts in Congress to enact stricter gun control laws.
Americans for Responsible Solutions said it will support a slate of nine Democrats and two Republicans in 2014 – and perhaps more. The group has raised about $14.5 million since it was founded in January 2013 and plans to spend money on television and online advertising and direct mail to help the list of mostly incumbent candidates.
“We need leaders who are ready to shatter the tired myth that you can’t be pro-gun rights and pro-gun violence prevention,” Kelly said in a conference call with reporters.
Giffords, D-Ariz., was severely wounded in a January 2011 shooting in Tucson, Arizona, that killed six people. The couple formed the political action committee and partner nonprofit organization in the aftermath of the December 2012 killings of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.
The group plans to advertise in some of the Democrats’ top Senate races, helping Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Al Franken of Minnesota and Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, who is seeking the state’s open Senate seat. It also intends to help Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.
It plans to help four House incumbents: Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., a former Giffords aide; Democratic Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster of New Hampshire; and Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, who represents a House district outside Philadelphia.
A proposed expansion of background checks on the sale of firearms was derailed in the Senate last year and Democrats have struggled to advance new gun-control measures in an election year featuring tough races in some conservative and Western states. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who has supported more gun control, has said he will spend $50 million this year on campaigns that include drawing gun-control voters to the polls.
Democrats have raised hopes of achieving parity with the National Rifle Association, which spent nearly $20 million on federal campaign activity in 2012 races. It has reported 5 million members, many of whom regard gun issues strongly when voting.
Pia Carusone, Americans for Responsible Solutions’ executive director, said it would “meet and exceed” the $20 million fundraising goal it set at the start of the 2014 campaign cycle but declined to specify how much it plans to spend on federal races this year.