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Blogs / Influence

Anti-Gun Group Exits Political Money Game

July 26, 2012
The nation's largest anti-gun violence lobby is taking a step back this week in the wake of the Auoroa, Colo., shootings. No aggressive pushes for specific policy from The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Instead, they've launched the "We Are Better Than This" national campaign to get the public talking about gun violence.

The Brady Campaign has started petitions that challenge President Barack Obama, Gov. Mitt Romney and members of Congress to lead on finding solutions to gun violence.

"Let's put aside partisan politics, any politics, and focus on one thing and one thing only: what we can do to save lives. It's the conversation that the overwhelming majority of Americans want to have," Brady Campaign president Dan Gross said at a press conference Thursday.

Earlier this week, a few Democratic members called upon their colleagues to consider a ban on high power magazine ammunition, which is what the Aurora shooter used. But party leaders aren't eager to do anything of the sort. Obama called for stepped up background checks during a speech to the Urban League Wednesday, but didn't talk about ammunition bans.

And while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday, "I don't know how anyone could disagree with what the president said," when pressed, Reid added "it's real obvious with the schedule we have we're not going to be able to do anything."

House Speaker John Boehner balked at bringing new control legislation on the floor, saying Thursday that "the most logical step forward at this point" is to examine whether existing gun laws are "working as they were intended to work."

"AK-47s, all right, are not allowed to be in the hands of criminals - that is the law," said Boehner. "If the president has proposals on other ways we can address criminals owning guns, I'd be happy to look at it."

Gross said universal background checks are widely supported by Americans, including National Rifle Association members.

"I don't know if it's the most fertile ground, but I would definitely posit that that is very fertile ground to find a solution," Gross said. "And given the existence of that fertile ground, I think it's shameful that our political leaders would play politics when there are lives that can be saved and we can prove it by keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people without compromising the right of law abiding citizens."

The Brady Campaign is a light-weight when it comes to political spending -- its PAC has been dormant since 2008, and it spent only $20,000 this year on lobbying in 2012. Part of that is there hasn't been a strong interest in gun issues since 2008.

"We're never going to have as much money as the gun lobby," Gross said, especially given that the gun lobby has a financial interest in gun laws.

Brady Campaign spokeswoman Caroline Brewer added that they aren't convinced that political dollars from the gun lobby are making that big of an impact, pointing out that Obama won in 11 out of the 13 states where the NRA spent significantly on campaign ads in 2008.

So it makes sense that, at a time when there's little interest or incentive to raise tons of cash, the Brady Campaign says it is focused on raising general awareness on gun violence to spur a national conversation.

"We're going to harness the voice of the American people because that is what will make a difference" and is the only thing that will overcome a well-funded gun lobby," Gross said.

Billy House and Dan Friedman contributed.

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