Groups work to relight fire on gun control

Gun control groups are marking six months since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting by pressuring the Senate to reconsider background checks legislation.

The offensive includes visits to lawmakers by families of the Newtown victims, events at the White House and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) concerted effort to politically injure the four Senate Democrats who voted against tougher background checks. 

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Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns is busing the Newtown Action Alliance into Washington. 

The citizen group, which is in part made up of families of Sandy Hook victims, will hold a press conference, hand-deliver messages to lawmakers and form a “human ribbon remembrance” of the victims at Capitol Hill on Thursday.

On Friday, the group begins its “No More Names” nationwide bus tour, in which family members of gun violence victims will visit 25 states over 100 days. Members of the group plan to stand in front of the hometown offices of lawmakers opposed to gun control reform in an attempt to convince the Senate to reconsider the background checks bill.

Family members met Wednesday with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a co-sponsor of the Senate background checks bill, as well as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

Six months after the nation was shocked by the Newtown killings, which left 26 people, including 20 first-graders dead, gun control efforts are languishing on Capitol Hill. 

The Senate has abandoned the issue since the background checks bill in April garnered just 54 votes — 60 were needed to break a filibuster and move forward on the bill. 

Attention has moved to immigration reform, and President Obama is battling a range of controversies threatening to lower his clout. 

Gun control legislation always faced a more difficult path in the GOP-controlled House, and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) on Tuesday said it was “very doubtful” that tougher gun laws will be considered. 

“I am very doubtful whether the House leadership has the intention of bringing a bill to the floor,” Hoyer said. 

Boehner has said he will wait for the Senate to pass something before considering gun control legislation in the House, but said his chamber doesn’t plan to rubber-stamp whatever the Senate passes down. 

Given those obstacles, gun control supporters have put their hopes in the Senate, where another vote on background checks is at least conceivable. 

In the hopes of pressuring Democrats to shift, Bloomberg on Wednesday asked hundreds of his state’s wealthiest donors to cut off contributions to Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), who all voted against the background checks bill. 

Bloomberg believes that threatening the Democratic majority in the Senate — Pryor and Begich are both up for reelection next year — could get them to jump to his side, though it’s not clear it would be in the interest of either candidate given the states they represent. 

He also thinks that could get Republicans he views as persuadable, such Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), to reconsider their positions. Ayotte has seen her poll numbers decline since voting against the background checks bill.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns has already targeted Pryor in a six-figure ad blitz over his “no” vote and is running competing ads lauding the leadership of Republican senators who voted in favor of expanding background checks.

The National Rifle Association has launched radio ads in Arkansas supporting Pryor for “standing up to Barack Obama and supporting our Second Amendment rights.” 

The group also has $100,000 in television ads going up in West Virginia targeting Manchin for his support of the background checks bill.

Both ads slam Bloomberg for meddling in the business of other states and for “exploiting” tragedies.

“Bloomberg always uses tragedies to push his agenda instead of seeking out and promoting real solutions,” NRA spokeswoman Alexa Fritts told The Hill in an interview. “He should instead use his billions to promote actual solutions that prevent some of these tragedies in the first place: mental health reform, enforcing existing laws and a blanket of security in schools.”

Fritts said the NRA isn’t concerned that Bloomberg throwing his weight back into the debate might sway vulnerable Democrats.

“We don’t feel that they might switch sides,” she said. “We’re appreciative of their votes because we know they were hard votes. I would hope they would vote again how their constituents want them to and not be swayed by this  — they work for their constituents, not Bloomberg.”

While the White House’s focus has not been on gun control in recent weeks, Vice President Biden will get back into the debate by hosting a gun control event at the White House next week.