More than $400,000 will be spent in Maine, West Virginia and Montana on television ads that say “Stop Biden’s gun grab.” The ads are designed to influence senators whose votes may be in play as the gun-control debate unfolds.
Those first ads focus on Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who in the past offered compromise legislation that would expand background checks on gun buyers. They are also targeting Maine Sens. Susan Collins (R) and Angus King, an independent, who are considered to be possible supporters of such a compromise proposal if one is revived later this spring as expected.
“Tell Joe Manchin to reject President Biden’s extreme gun-control agenda,” the ads say, targeted to each state’s senators. As pictures of Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) loom menacingly, an announcer describes the president’s plan to “ban commonly owned firearms” and nominate David Chipman “a radical gun-control activist” to be the head of ATF. Chipman spent 25 years as a special agent at the bureau before becoming a policy adviser to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an organization founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, (D-Ariz.), which advocates for tighter gun regulation.
After a grisly series of mass shootings in recent weeks, there have been increased calls for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
While such bills could pass the Democratic-controlled House, they would likely be blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate, even if all Senate Democrats supported them, which is not certain.
Some Democrats worry about the impact of a gun debate on the 2022 midterm elections. In 2014, the late senator Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) lost reelection after voting to support legislation to expand background checks. The NRA spent millions to defeat Hagan that year.
Gun-control supporters say the political landscape has changed, claiming there is more public support for gun control and that the NRA has been crippled by infighting, scandal and litigation, including the current bankruptcy trial.
In addition to the TV ads, the NRA announced that an additional $600,000 will go to targeted digital advertising in the original three states and Arizona, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania. Another half-million dollars will be dedicated to a direct mail campaign that will also hit Utah, Alaska, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.
“Additional outreach will be done through targeted text messages and 16 in-person and multiple digital town hall events,” according to Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA. One town hall has already taken place in West Virginia. A second was scheduled for Wednesday night in Maine.
And more spending may be on the way, he said.
“Our efforts will eclipse $2 million opposing Joe Biden’s gun-control agenda and the nomination of radical gun control lobbyist David Chipman to head ATF,” Arulanandam said.
Though the NRA has filed for bankruptcy protection, faces legal challenges and infighting, it has also been expanding its membership and income. The election of Biden and the prospect of gun-control measures has inspired contributions and activism, officials said.
The biggest challenge to the country’s largest gun-rights group came last year when New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the organization, alleging that the NRA had been mismanaged as senior executives rewarded themselves and their families. The NRA responded by proposing to move its operations to Texas.