Michael Bloomberg spent more than $500-million in his abortive attempt to run for president last year and didn’t get much of a return on his investment, but he’s hoping that a much smaller influx of cash can put dozens of gun control activists in office in the 2022 elections. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Bloomberg’s gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety is spending $3-million to recruit and train some of its volunteers to become candidates as well as anti-gun activists.
According to the Times, a number of pro-gun control politicians will be lending their support to the effort, including former Republican congressman David Jolly of Florida and Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia.
Ms. McBath, who was first elected in 2018, said in an interview on Monday that as an advocate with Moms Demand Action she had learned about organizing people, giving speeches and talking about policy with different audiences. But, she said, “I had no idea how to run a campaign.”
“I’d never run for office before,” said Ms. McBath, who got involved with Moms Demand Action after her son, Jordan Davis, was fatally shot. “I got a little bit of help from people around me and went to a boot-camp training over a weekend, but I wish I had this kind of structure in place, an ongoing structure I could tie into the entire time.”
McBath is the biggest success story that the gun control lobby has had in terms of electing one of their own to Congress. She narrowly won election in 2018 against Republican candidate Karen Handel, and in 2020 the pair faced off again with McBath winning by a much larger margin, in large part because of a huge influx of independent campaign expenditures on the part of Everytown for Gun Safety. There are, however, a number of well-known Republicans who’ve already announced their plans to run against her next year; including Jake Evans, the former chairman of the state’s ethics commission, and former state representative Meagan Hanson. The GOP-controlled legislature will also be in charge of redistricting, and the 6th Congressional District could become more fertile ground for a pro-Second Amendment campaigner as a result.
Democrats are going to be facing electoral headwinds next November, since historically the party in the White House loses seats in the mid-term elections, but running dozens of candidates who can count on the financial largess of an anti-gun billionaire isn’t the worst electoral strategy out there. Of course, as Bloomberg’s own campaign demonstrated, money isn’t everything in politics. Even a well-funded candidate can go down to defeat if they’re unlikeable and/or out of touch with the electorate, and I’d argue that the gun control ideology is not only out of step with most Republican voters, but the far-Left of the Democratic Party as well.
The gun control lobby has spent the past year trying to play both sides of the Democratic divide over policing; claiming that “police violence is gun violence” while continuing to push for the creation of non-violent, possessory crimes that will be enforced by armed agents of the state. The media has largely allowed the gun control movement to assert its inherently contradictory positions without any pushback, but I doubt that the Democratic primary opponents of these “gunsense” candidates will be nice enough to do the same.
Given the disproportionate impact that Everytown’s gun control laws have on Black and Hispanic Americans, support for more restrictive laws may not prove as popular as advocates believe. The Supreme Court will also be weighing in on New York’s subjective and restrictive “may issue” carry permits during next year’s campaigning, forcing Everytown’s candidates to side with the handful of states that still claim the authority to deprive the average citizen of their right to keep and bear arms unless they can demonstrate some sort of “good cause” or “justifiable need” to do so.
The gun control lobby has also come down squarely on the side of nuking the filibuster and packing the Supreme Court full of anti-gun justices, a position held by only 30-percent of Democrats, according to one recent poll. That puts Everytown’s candidates in a tough spot; either endorse an unpopular position or publicly rebuke the gun control lobby that’s providing the lion’s share of the candidate’s support and resources.
The Everytown candidates will start with a cash advantage but a messaging deficit, which makes it critically important for Republicans to nominate candidates who can both rationally articulate their opposition to gun control and their support for the right to keep and bear arms in terms that resonate with the average voter. If they’re successful, then groups like Everytown will end up regretting their attempt to turn the 2022 elections a referendum on gun control. If not, gun owners and Second Amendment supporters could face a House and Senate with enough votes to impose sweeping gun bans by the narrowest of margins.