NRA delays political ads after Las Vegas shooting

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has delayed political advertisements in Virginia in the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 59 people dead and more than 520 injured.

The nation’s largest gun rights organization had originally booked $32,000 in cable television advertising to begin Tuesday, according to Advertising Analytics, a nonpartisan ad-buying firm that keeps tabs on the television market. 

Now, those advertisements will begin on Oct. 10. At the same time, the NRA will devote just more than $1 million to ads airing on broadcast networks in markets around Virginia.

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The NRA declined to comment on the shifting advertising. But a source close to the group said the change in schedule is part of their overall election strategy and that the ads were originally slated to begin running last week. Those ads were bumped back as well.

The NRA has endorsed former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie (R), who is running to replace term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) in November. The group also backs Republican nominees Jill Vogel for lieutenant governor and John Adams for attorney general, along with a handful of state legislative candidates.

On Monday, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) campaign canceled a planned series of roundtables in Northern Virginia with Gabrielle Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman who was shot in the head at an outdoor town hall meeting in 2011. Northam had not planned to attend the events, where Giffords was slated to tout his work on ending gun violence.

Northam has maintained a small lead in most public polls in recent weeks, despite being outspent on television ads. Gillespie’s campaign has spent $5.8 million on television spots, compared with $5.7 million for Northam’s campaign, according to the ad-buying firm Smart Media Group. 

Outside groups have spent far more on Gillespie’s behalf, attacking Northam, than the other way around. Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group affiliated with the network of donors led by billionaires Charles and David Koch, just finished a $1.4 million buy on Gillespie’s behalf. The Virginia Education Association has been the biggest spender touting Northam’s credentials, dropping $500,000 on television ads.