New debate over gun laws will test the gun lobby’s influence

Second Amendment

The group’s PAC has donated to Rep. Ted Budd, the GOP Senate candidate in North Carolina’s open-seat race, and some of its biggest checks so far this cycle have gone to House Republican leaders, according to Federal Election Commission reports. The disclosures show the PAC has contributed to Chabot as well as to a vulnerable incumbent Democrat: Rep. Jared Golden of Maine.  

Gun rights groups are not supporting Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman, a Democrat seeking retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat, who sent fundraising appeals on gun control after last week’s shooting in Uvalde. Fetterman reiterated his opposition to the Senate’s filibuster rules requiring 60 votes for most legislation, rules that blocked a bipartisan background check bill that Toomey co-sponsored in 2013. “Enough is enough,” Fetterman wrote to supporters. 

By more than 3-to-1, gun rights groups — including the best-known National Rifle Association, which has filed for bankruptcy and may no longer be the political behemoth it once was — have outspent gun control groups on elections and federal lobbying in the past dozen years. Gun control groups have spent about $50 million since 2010 to gun rights groups’ $155.6 million, according to the nonpartisan OpenSecrets, which tracks political money and lobbying expenditures.  

Gun control groups have begun to close the gap, especially as the NRA has hit a tumultuous period of declining revenue and foreign-influence scandals. Still, the NRA isn’t the only gun rights organization, and pro-Second Amendment views are widely baked into Republican orthodoxy. 

Sheila Krumholz, OpenSecrets’ executive director, said the imbalance in outside election spending between the two sides of the gun policy debate may not endure. Gun control groups outspent gun rights groups in the 2018 elections, she noted, though not in 2020. Gun control groups are “still at a disadvantage,” Krumholz said. 

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