Gun control groups seek convention momentum

The nation’s biggest gun control advocacy groups are looking to the Democratic National Convention to build off recent momentum sparked by New York’s lawsuit against the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Anti-gun violence organizations are expecting presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden to highlight the issue during his acceptance speech Thursday.

“What we always expect from him on our issue is just really strong and thoughtful leadership. He knows our organization well. He’s been working with us for over 30 years,” said Brady PAC Executive Director Brian Lemek.

Brady PAC, the sister organization of the nation’s oldest anti-gun violence advocacy group, touted that Biden helped pass the Brady Bill in 1993, which implemented the modern background check system that advocates are now pushing to reform.

Biden also delivered a eulogy in 2014 for James Brady, former President Reagan’s press secretary who was paralyzed by an assassination attempt on the president.

Brady PAC, formed during the 2018 election cycle, has raised nearly $100,000 for the Biden campaign, with a goal of hitting $250,000. The PAC, which endorsed Biden in March, has also given nearly $1 million to House and Senate races this cycle.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which has not yet made a direct contribution to Biden’s campaign after not making any direct campaign contributions in 2016, is hoping for more than just a mention of gun control during the former vice president’s prime-time speech.

“Given his decades-long leadership on gun safety, we wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Biden made this issue a key part of his convention message. And we can be absolutely certain that Biden, who has pledged to take action on gun safety in his first 100 days of office and committed $900 million in local violence intervention programs, will be the strongest gun sense president we’ve ever seen,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

Biden’s plan includes spending $900 million to help cities combat gun violence, strengthen laws to protect women and prevent domestic violence, and curtail harassment online that could lead to gun violence.

The virtual convention comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) seeking to dissolve the NRA, alleging that the organization violated state law governing nonprofits.

The suit accuses four top NRA officials, including CEO Wayne LaPierre, of diverting millions of dollars away from its charitable mission.

Gun safety advocates are hoping the lawsuit will force the NRA to spend their resources on litigation instead of 2020 campaigns.

Feinblatt said that rather than buying political ads, “they’re going to be paying legal bills.”

The NRA spent $36 million backing President Trump in the 2016 cycle.

Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and Victory Fund plans to spend $60 million on elections during the 2020 cycle.

The group — co-founded by billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (D), who launched a short-lived 2020 presidential campaign — did not make a direct campaign contribution to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton or any other candidate that cycle.

The 2020 Democratic platform calls for ending the epidemic of gun violence, which the party refers to as a public health crisis. It also calls for universal background checks, an end to online sales of guns and ammunition, and closing loopholes that allow individuals convicted of hate crimes to buy firearms.

Giffords, the group formed by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), has given only $10,000 to the Biden Victory Fund. The organization is mostly focused on flipping the Senate and it has given nearly $200,000 for federal races. Gabrielle Giffords endorsed Biden in March, and her husband is seeking the Senate seat in Arizona held by Sen. Martha McSally (R).

“We fully expect Vice President Biden to issue a rallying cry … that we must do more to save lives,” said Robin Lloyd, managing director for Giffords.

“Vice President Biden is a bold leader with a clear and robust gun violence prevention platform that shows his commitment to taking action from the day he steps in the White House,” Lloyd added.

In 2016, when Giffords was known as the Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, made in-kind contributions to Clinton but no outright donations.

Biden’s plan includes banning the manufacturing and sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, regulating possession of existing assault weapons, and holding gun manufacturers accountable by repealing protections that they cannot be held civilly liable for their products.

It also includes buying back assault weapons and high-capacity magazines that are already in the community, reducing stockpiling of firearms, and enacting universal background check legislation.

On the issue of background checks, he would require one for all gun sales, close loopholes to the system, keep guns out of the hands of people with mental health issues, and close the so-called Charleston loophole, among other things.

The House passed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, aimed at strengthening background checks for gun purchases, in 2019. A day later, the House approved the Enhanced Background Checks Act, which would close the “Charleston loophole” and give federal investigators more time to do background checks. Neither bill has been taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Lemek said Biden’s gun control plan is “probably the most comprehensive in American history for our issue.”

“He knows it’s a complex problem, he knows it requires comprehensive solutions,” Lemek said.

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