Georgia’s runoff election has become a battleground for gun control and advocacy groups targeting the race for Senate, as Democrats fight to gain control of both the executive and legislative branches.
“The stakes have never been higher,” Brian Lemek, the executive director and founding member of Brady PAC, sister to the nation’s oldest anti-gun violence advocacy group, told Fox News Wednesday.
“We could see ourselves with a gun violence prevention majority in the Senate and we could see some meaningful legislation actually pass, some commonsense solutions to this very complex problem,” Lemek said.
Brady PAC has already spent $135,000 in Georgia’s Senate race, $100,000 of which was spent following the Nov. 3 general election, Fox News verified through FEC reports Wednesday.
Other gun control groups, like Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords, are also jumping at the bit and joining forces to not only invest in the Senate Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, but are taking on gun titan, the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The NRA has also heavily invested in the fight for the Senate majority, and poured over $900,000 into mail, phone services, canvassing and event spaces during the month of December alone, targeting the promotion of GOP incumbent candidate Senators David Perdue and Kelley Loeffler, FEC filings show.
But gun control groups say the NRA is not the threat they used to pose, as the gun advocacy group continues to reel from internal controversies.
“They’re more bark than bite these days, they’re embroiled in all their own scandals, they don’t have the money they used to have and they are not the threat that we used to see them to be,” Lemek told Fox News. “And not so much because of the money aspects but because the jig is up.
“They’ve lost the center Republicans and the center of Dems,” he said, alluding to recent scandals that have unfolded within the organization. “The stranglehold they once had is gone.”
Lemek, a lifelong hunter and former NRA membership holder, said the push gun control groups are looking for is not the removal of gun rights, but rather an implementation of “commonsense laws” like expanded background checks – a policy the NRA and Senate GOP officials have resisted.
Brady PAC alone raised $5.6 million during the 2020 election cycle, showing a shift in high spending campaigns and demonstrating an increased significance in the role that gun control plays in U.S. elections.
Where advocacy groups are focusing their funds has also come into play. The NRA has traditionally been able to outspend any counter advocacy groups, but was unable to maintain that level of dominance during the 2020 general election — likely costing them states they were traditionally competitive in.
The NRA spent $23 million on federal races during the 2020 general election — roughly half of the $54 million spent during the 2016 election — choosing to instead focus on battleground states like North Carolina, according to The Trace.
Decreased spending allowed gun control groups like Giffords to invest heavily in sections of the country where vulnerable GOP candidates struggled with blue trending states – like Republican Sen. Cory Gardner’s race in Colorado.
Gardner ultimately lost his campaign in a race that turned the entire state’s legislature blue, putting the state under a complete one-party rule not seen since 1936.
The union of smaller advocacy groups banning together resulted in a lasting effect in the 2020 general election, and appears to be a tactic gun control groups are utilizing in Georgia’s special election – though whether it will prove to be as successful in the traditionally red state remains to be seen.
“This is the solidarity that we show, getting behind the race and showing that gun violence prevention and talking guns in Georgia is important, it’s a big part of this race,” Lemek told Fox News.