Progressive groups threaten attacks on Democratic 'no' votes on gun control

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Democracy for America (DFA) and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), both groups that have previously threatened action against Democrats on key issues like gun control, indicated on Thursday they'll have the four Democrats who voted against the bill in their sights looking toward 2014.

PCCC is already launching full-page newspaper ads targeting the four Democratic "no" votes: Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

"Today, the Senate voted against the 91% of Americans who support background checks to stop gun violence. We'll be holding accountable Democrats who voted against their constituents by running ads in their states, featuring some of the 23,000 gun owners who have joined our campaign for common sense gun reform," said Stephanie Taylor, PCCC co-founder, in a statement.

The ad charges that "it was wrong to vote no on stopping gun violence," and includes a list of gun owners calling for gun control.

DFA communications director Neil Sroka also hinted that the group would look toward backing primary challengers against the Democrats who voted "no" in a statement that called the party defectors "cowardly."

"Democrats who were too cowardly to get on the right side of a 90-10 issue like universal background checks better believe that the progressives will remember their spinelessness on gun violence prevention come reelection time.  The over 1 million members of Democracy for America nationwide work to elect progressive fighters, not U.S. Senators who can be cowed by the right-wing fringe and gun industry lobbyists like the NRA," he said.

And two groups created specifically to push for gun control legislation, one backed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the other by shooting victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), both suggested they would not disappear despite the apparent failure of their efforts following Wednesday's vote.

In a scathing statement issued by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group which he co-chairs, Bloomberg called the vote "a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington."

"The only silver lining is that we now know who refuses to stand with the 90 percent of Americans – and in 2014, our ever-expanding coalition of supporters will work to make sure that voters don’t forget," Bloomberg said.

A spokesman for his PAC, Independence USA, which played a large role in the special election in Illinois' 2nd District, declined to comment on the PAC's plans going forward.

And Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, issued a statement through their PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, pledging to continue work to "[make] sure we have a congress that will put the interests of their communities ahead of the interests of the gun lobby."

"We will use every means possible to make sure the constituents of these senators know that their elected representatives ignored them, and put Washington, DC special interest politics over the effort to keep their own communities safer from the tragedy of gun violence," the statement reads.

That statement was soon followed by a fundraising plea signed by Giffords pledging to "change the Senate."

"It's clear to me that if members of the U.S. Senate refuse to change the laws to reduce gun violence, then we need to change the members of the U.S. Senate," she writes in the email to supporters.


Baucus, Begich and Pryor all faced a tough vote on the gun control bill, as they're up for reelection in red states that President Obama lost in 2012. Heitkamp was recently elected for her first term with a thin margin of support.

Democrats have touted polling that shows a majority of Americans support expanded background checks, which they say indicates they're on the right side of the issue politically.

But Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, who played a large role in negotiating the bipartisan compromise on background checks, said the political impact of Wednesday’s vote remains to be seen.

“I think that America is largely for background checks,” he said. “An issue like this can end up helping, end up hurting. It depends.”

The failure of the bipartisan bill, authored by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is considered by most observers to be a decisive blow to the best chance for expanded gun control regulations to make it through Congress.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has authored alternative legislation that would allow potential gun buyers to conduct background checks on themselves and present certification to sellers, but there's little indication Democrats would support it, and none of the Democratic groups lobbying for gun control have expressed support for the Coburn measure.

Alexander Bolton contributed to this report.