Anti-gun groups target WI, CO Senate races

(AP Photo/ Cheryl Senter)

One gun control group is spending money to protect an incumbent, while the other is hoping to defeat a sitting senator, and both groups are sinking some substantial cash into their efforts.

With early voting right already underway in some states, election season is officially upon us, and chances are good that you’ve been seeing an increasing number of political ads on your TV and smartphone. For some viewers in Colorado and Wisconsin, those ads could soon include direct messaging from the likes of Giffords and Everytown.

In Colorado, Giffords PAC, a group affiliated with former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was the victim of gun violence while she was a member of Congress in 2011, is up with a new ad in the state’s U.S. Senate race.

The ad attacks Republican nominee Joe O’Dea for allegedly supporting the gun lobby.

The narrator in the ad says, “Here in Colorado, we’ve felt the pain of gun violence so many times, but Joe O’Dea sides with the gun lobby, not us.”

So far, Giffords PAC has spent over $360,000 on the airwaves in that state’s Senate race, but they have an additional $2 million worth of airtime booked through Election Day.

Here’s what Giffords won’t tell Colorado voters; the state already has some of the gun control group’s top priorities enshrined into law, including “universal background checks”, Extreme Risk Protection Orders, and a ban on “large capacity” magazines. Despite those laws, violent crime in Colorado has been on a steady increase since 2014, which shouldn’t be happening if these supposedly commonsense regulations had any measurable impact on criminal behavior. Michael Bennett is a reliable vote for gun control in the Senate, but Coloradans have a chance to put the focus on the perpetrators of violence instead of law-abiding gun owners if they elect O’Dea.

At the moment, though, Bennett is enjoying a double-digit lead over O’Dea in polling, which makes me wonder why Giffords is bothering to spend more than $2-million to protect the anti-gun incumbent. Is internal polling showing a closer race, or is there another reason for the substantial outside spending in support of Bennett when there are other candidates in much tighter races around the country.

Wisconsin is one of those states. The RealClearPolitics polling average currently shows Republican incumbent Ron Johnson with a lead of just 1.5 points in the running average of voter surveys; well within the margin of error. Everytown for Gun Safety is hoping to sway that race towards the anti-gun Democrat by attacking Johnson for allegedly being soft on crime and exacerbating “mass shootings, school shootings and violent crime” by not wholeheartedly embracing the anti-gun group’s push for bans on so-called assault weapons and other attempts to criminalize the exercise of a constitutionally-protected right.

The group is spending at least one million dollars on its first ad against Johnson, which isn’t chump change. How likely it is to actually persuade voters, however, remains to be seen. According to a Marquette University poll from last week crime is the one of the top issues with the electorate, second only to inflation. “Gun violence” is also one of the top issues; ahead of abortion, taxes, illegal immigration, and climate change. As we’ve previously written about, the gun control lobby is hoping to convince voters that being pro-gun control is somehow pro-police and tough on crime, even though every new possessory gun offense that the gun control lobby puts in place risks turning legal gun owners into criminals while diverting the attention and resources of law enforcement away from those who are actually responsible for committing carjackings, home invasions, armed robberies, and deadly assaults.

Johnson’s opponent, meanwhile, is the subject of a new ad calling him a “Defund the police Democrat”, and it’s true that Mandela Barnes has previously spoken about “bloated” police budgets with money that, in his view, could be better spent on non-law enforcement activities. Still, Barnes is now trying to present himself as a pro-police Democrat, albeit one who’s interested in “reform.”

Republicans tend to have a sizeable advantage over Democrats when it comes to issues like crime and public safety, and while the Marquette poll didn’t ask voters who they trusted more on the issue, if past trends hold true then Johnson should have an edge over Barnes. Given how tight the race is overall though, persuasion at the margin of any given issue could have an outsized impact. With a billionaire’s bank account at their disposal, Everytown can afford to make their “gun control is crime control” pitch to voters even if most of those who consider crime a top priority will end up voting for Johnson. A vote here, a vote there, and all of a sudden Democrats have flipped a seat, which is why it’s critically important for gun owners and Second Amendment supporters in the state to be engaged, involved, and a downright pain in the neck to friends and family in encouraging them to cast their own votes this year.