Gun control advocates are using rich donors and shifting tactics to try remaking the political landscape in the gun debate, challenging and sometimes besting the National Rifle Association in state battles, reports the New York Times. The momentum reflects a strategy to steer clear of a Republican-led Congress unwilling to touch federal gun laws after years of intense lobbying on both sides. With tens of millions of dollars thanks to backers like former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, gun control groups have won some surprising successes in Connecticut, Delaware and elsewhere. They are looking to state and local officials from Nevada to Maine to win approval for tougher background checks and other measures. Gun control backers gained a win in Virginia last month when Attorney General Mark Herring barred those who hold concealed-handgun permits in 25 other states from carrying a gun in Virginia.
The NRA remains a dominant force, spending more than $32.5 million last year on campaigns and lobbying. It has shown continued muscle in stopping new restrictions and loosening existing ones in many localities. The political landscape has become more hotly contested as a result of the gun control groups' shift in focus and infusion of cash, operatives on both sides say. The axiom that gun control is a losing political issue does not always hold true anymore. “The money was almost exclusively on the pro-gun side of the fence before, and we were always accused of spending our way to victory,” said Richard Feldman, a former NRA executive who leads the Independent Firearms Owners Association. The organization Everytown for Gun Safety got $36 million last year, with the biggest chunk coming from Bloomberg. It has eclipsed older gun control groups in publicity and influence. In its latest push, the group is funding an ad campaign for National Basketball Association players to speak out against gun violence.