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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