Money, in and of itself, won’t win elections. However, a lack of money sure can, but money won’t win all by itself. You also have to have ideas and a message that will rally the voters to you.
Gun control groups like Giffords figure they already have that, so they’re spending money like there’s no tomorrow. Most recently, they’re dropping a huge chunk of change in Virginia ahead of general elections next year.
Giffords PAC announced it would spend $300,000 in ads across legislative districts in Virginia, with a focus on the Richmond and Virginia Beach regions, through Election Day on November 5. The group announced another $50,000 expenditure on a digital ad campaign supporting Omar Montgomery, who is running for mayor in Aurora, Colorado, against National Rifle Association–aligned candidate Mike Coffman.
After a government employee in Virginia Beach, Virginia, killed 12 people at a municipal building in May, the NRA helped tamp down an effort by the state’s Democratic governor to convene a special legislative session in favor of several gun violence prevention measures. The session was largely pro forma, as the Virginia General Assembly is controlled by Republicans. Despite the NRA’s spending turnabout, it managed to help quash an unusually vociferous push within the state for legislation that included universal background checks and red flag measures.
“Voters in Virginia are primed to turn out this year on gun safety,” predicted Joanna Belanger, the political director at Giffords. “With current state leadership paying lip service to the issue, this year Virginia voters will say ‘enough is enough.’ The status quo of thoughts and prayers is no longer acceptable, and these ads show just what’s at stake if elected leaders in the Commonwealth continue to block progress.”
After two mass shootings in early August, the NRA found itself once more outmatched by spending from gun control organizations. Giffords embarked on a campaign, with nearly $750,000 spent, to pressure Republicans to act on gun control legislation originating in the House,found. Meanwhile, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Michael Bloomberg–founded gun control group, introduced a $1 million ad campaign.
Of course, there’s also a lot of information about the NRA spending money as well. In part because Virginia is likely to be a key battleground. While they have a Democrat for governor at the moment, Republicans control the legislature. This suggests that the state is going to be a swing state for 2020 or may even be turning blue.
That kind of information would embolden anti-gun activists, to say the least.
However, they may also be wasting their money. While Gov. Ralph Northam did win the governorship, he ran against an uninspiring Republican that many in his own party were less than thrilled with. I’m not as convinced that Virginia is as in play as Giffords seems to think. I’m not sure that gun control will be nearly as popular either.
Of course, I could be wrong.
What I do know is that Giffords and other gun control groups are perpetually running into a brick wall. The reason is something I’ve noted before. While a number of people do espouse support for gun control, few of them make it a driving issue. Pointing out that someone is pro-gun isn’t likely to make someone vote against a candidate on its own.
In other words, people care about gun control, just not enough to ignore someone’s other positions as well.
Pointing out their pro-gun stance may well backfire, though, as candidates who may not be generally liked will get votes simply because of their pro-gun stance. Unlike anti-gunners, pro-gun voters do let this issue drive them much of the time. So Giffords may actually help reelect some lawmakers.
Which would be hilarious.
We’ll just have to see what happens, though.