The group founded by Gabrielle Giffords plans to spend in races this year to advance gun restrictions, specifically in a few highly competitive House and Senate races.
In the days after the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, gun control reform groups have seen an energized grassroots base, largely led by the high school students who survived the shooting.
Now prominent gun control groups are launching programs to push the issue further during the midterm elections. Giffords PAC, an advocacy group launched by former lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, will focus on five House races and one Senate race. An official with the group did not say how much money the campaign would entail, nor what the effort would look like.
“We recognize that gun safety has the potential to be a key issue in the midterms,” said Isabelle James, the political director of the Giffords PAC, citing higher numbers of Americans that support some form of gun control.
Running on gun control has been politically complicated for a long time; though some Democrats say the tide has really changed and thus restrictions are politically feasible, Republicans have long run on gun rights and seen success.
The campaign plans to maintain an expanded public priority list of politicians they hope to unseat. Alongside its priority list, the campaign will include digital and TV advertisements, a wider voter registration drive, and political organizing to elect candidates that support gun control legislation. In its first round, Giffords PAC is targeting Sen. Dean Heller, and Reps. Mike Coffman, Vern Buchanan, Pete Sessions, and Barbara Comstock, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Those races feature a range of competitiveness, but Coffman and Comstock are seen as facing tough reelection bids in Colorado and Virginia, respectively, while Heller — who represents Nevada — is seen as the most vulnerable Republican senator up for reelection in 2018.
Ryan, meanwhile, usually wins reelection in double digits. (The group, however, said Ryan has not allowed gun control measures: “The US House has not voted on a bill that would strengthen our nation’s gun laws since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, and since 2015, it’s thanks to Paul Ryan.”)
The campaign — called #VoteCourage — falls in line with a larger campaign to register high school students to vote around gun control by the Giffords PAC, alongside Everytown for Gun Safety and NextGen America, the political action committee founded by Democratic billionaire activist Tom Steyer. That campaign is kicking off with an initial $1 million donation by Steyer and is set to launch on March 25, the day after March for Our Lives, which is being organized by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, along with a number of prominent national progressive and liberal groups.