Sep 26, 2019

Gun control group to spend $550K on digital ads targeting Va. races

Advocates of gun reform legislation hold a candlelight vigil for victims of recent mass shootings. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the biggest gun safety advocacy groups in the U.S., is launching a $550,000 digital ad campaign targeting 15 Republican-held Virginia House and Senate districts — seats the group aims to flip this year, Everytown told Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: The likelihood of federal gun control measures passing in Congress this year is slipping away, as attention has shifted to impeachment proceedings. But given the series of horrific mass shootings over the past few years, gun control remains a leading issue in 2019 and 2020 elections.

By the numbers: States have already taken gun control into their own hands. 25 states have now passed laws disarming domestic abusers, 21 states require background checks and 17 states have passed red flag laws, according to Everytown.

  • Virginia, a purple state that has been trending blue, has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the country. It is also home to the NRA. With more Democrats in office, Everytown hopes more gun safety laws will pass in Virginia.

Background: After the mass shooting in Virginia Beach earlier this year, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ordered a special legislative session to consider gun control measures. Republican state lawmakers ended it after just 90 minutes, and not a single bill was considered, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

  • "After the Virginia Beach mass shooting, Republican politicians chose to stand with the gun lobby — so now Virginia voters are looking for leaders who will stand up for their safety," John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, told Axios in a statement.
  • Everytown has committed to spending $2.5 million on Virginia's 2019 races.

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Where 2020 Democrats stand on gun control

Warren and Biden on the debate stage on Jan. 14. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a new gun reform bill on Thursday with Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that calls for raising the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21 and increasing the excise tax on gun sales to 30% and ammunition sales to 50%.

The big picture: 2019's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach; and near Odessa, Texas, have pushed 2020 Democrats to take harder stances on gun control than in the last presidential election, when Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton only briefly addressed the issue in their primary debate.

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Attorney General Bill Barr outlined in a memo released Wednesday plans to adopt terrorism prevention initiatives to stop mass shootings via "forward leaning" strategies via court-ordered mental health treatment, supervision and counseling.

Driving the news: Activism around gun violence increased following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton in August, per Axios' Neal Rothschild.

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Cory Booker proposes gun control plan

Sen. Cory Booker. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced a sweeping 14-part gun control plan in May.

Why it matters: The plan features some of the most progressive measures to combat gun violence proposed by any 2020 candidate. It's Booker's attempt to stand out in an increasingly crowded field, as he leans on his experience as the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, to boost his credibility on the issue of gun violence.

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