For gun-control groups, last year’s State of the Union wasn’t enough


Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was seriously injured in a mass shooting that killed six people in Tucson, Ariz. two years ago, sits with her husband, Mark Kelly, right, a retired astronaut, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, prior to speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on what lawmakers should do to curb gun violence in the wake of a shooting rampage at that killed 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

In a new ad set to air before and after Tuesday night's State of the Union address, former Rep. Gabby Giffords says it's time to "tell Washington it's too dangerous to wait" for gun-control legislation. The ad was produced by Americans for Responsible Solutions -- the 501(c)(4) started by the Arizona Democrat and her husband Mark Kelly soon after she was critically injured at a campaign event in Tuscon that left six of her constituents dead -- and is set to air on MSNBC and CNN nationwide.

It juxtaposes the gun violence-prevention plan outlined in President Obama's 2013 State of the Union with the relative inertia that followed, especially after the Manchin-Toomey amendment pushing for universal background checks failed 54 - 46 in the Senate (60 votes were necessary for the bill to advance). Giffords mentions a Washington Post/ABC News poll from April that showed over 90 percent of Americans support background checks -- specifically at guns shows -- in the ad, as well as the $243 million the National Rifle Association spent in 2010 fighting these efforts.

"As Congress delays," Pia Carusone, Americans for Responsible Solutions executive director, said, "gun violence rages on in our nation and we continue imploring Congress and state houses around the country to take action. It's too dangerous to wait. For example, today we are in Washington state to lend our voice and support to the state initiative to help keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists and the dangerously mentally ill."

Giffords and Kelly are spending the day in Olympia, Wash., testifying in a state judiciary committee hearing on Initiative 594 -- a measure to mandate universal background checks in the state. The hearing will also cover Initiative 591, the "Protect Our Gun Rights Act." According to the Seattle Times, neither bill is likely to succeed in Congress, but both have enough votes to end up on the ballot during midterm elections.

Giffords was invited to sit in first lady Michelle Obama's box at the 2013 State of the Union. During the president's appeal for gun legislation, he pointed at Giffords and two dozen other guests, "whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence," who were sitting together in the Capitol. "They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote," Obama said.

However, it's not clear that President Obama will revisit the points he made last year in Tuesday night's message to Congress. In Monday's White House news briefing, press secretary Jay Carney waded into the politics that defined the battle over gun violence prevention in the past year, affirming that the president's "commitment to taking common-sense steps to reduce gun violence remains very strong," but refused to say if the president would mention gun control during the address: "As I’ve said in answer to other questions about what specifically might be in the State of the Union, I’m going to ask you to bear with us and wait to see what the President says."

Regardless of how gun control fares at the federal level in 2014, Americans for Responsible Solutions plans to spend big during this year's midterm elections. The organization's super PAC arm had received $6.6 million in donations for this election cycle as of June 2013, according to the Sunlight Foundation. It received $250,000 each from former New York mayor -- and founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns -- Michael Bloomberg, the first president of Facebook, Sean Parker, and the Mostyn Law Firm, where the two founders of the Ready for Hillary PAC work. Steve Mostyn is also the super PAC's treasurer. He told Reuters in January 2013 that the group is seeking to raise at least $20 million for the 2014 midterms in order to match NRA spending in 2012. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer donated $25,000 to Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America are also using the State of the Union and the anniversary of Obama's big gun-control push as an opportunity to remind the country about gun violence. Mark Glaze, executive director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Shannon Watts, who founded Moms Demand Action last year, laid out the "State of the Gun Violence Prevention Movement in 2014" in a Web video released Tuesday. But the group focuses more on changes in state and local policy than hitting home Congress's failure to pass the background checks or any other gun-control measures. They mention a new "state of the art" background-check system in Colorado, which Glaze credits with preventing 100 people "too dangerous" to own guns from purchasing a firearm they would have been able to obtain easily before the law was passed in July 2013. Last year the state conducted 396,955 background checks -- the most in Colorado history.

This is one of the first joint actions of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which teamed up last month. Moms Demand Action was founded soon after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. in December 2012. Their biggest national action was pushing Starbucks to prohibit loaded guns from their stores.

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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