After Arizona Shooting, Gun Control Advocates Push for New Restrictions

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OpenSecrets Blog

After Arizona Shooting, Gun Control Advocates Push for New Restrictions

by
Michael Beckel

In the debate about 2nd Amendment rights and gun
control, one side -- gun supporters -- typically has the upper hand.
Now, gun control advocates are hoping momentum will build for new laws
after the assassination attempt against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Saturday in Tucson.

The weapon involved in the shooting was a Glock 19, a variation of a gun standard in many law enforcement departments.

Instead
of the standard-issue 15 bullets in the magazine clip, the
semi-automatic pistol was reportedly equipped with an extended magazine
that could store 30 rounds of ammunition. The alleged shooter,
22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, was jumped and restrained while trying
to reload.

That type of ammunition clip increasingly looks to be the focus of a new legislative push for stricter regulations.

"People
are completely outraged that there is a high-capacity magazine attached
to a Glock," Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told OpenSecrets Blog.

"These
are offensive weapons," Horwitz continued. "We need to deescalate... 30
rounds is a long time to wait for someone to reload."

But John Velleco, the director of federal affairs for the Gun Owners of America, told OpenSecrets Blog that lawmakers shouldn't jump to conclusions. He urged caution in lawmakers developing new regulations.

"Authorities
don't know all the facts and already politicians like [New York
Democratic Rep. Carolyn] McCarthy are blaming the 2nd Amendment, the Tea
Party and far right for the actions of a confused and deranged young
man," Velleco said.

"There is nothing to suggest that more gun
control laws would have prevented this," he continued. "You can't just
pass a law every time something bad happens and expect that to solve the
problem."

On Monday, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) -- whose husband died during a 1993 mass shooting on the Long Island railroad -- and Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) began drafting legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Such
equipment was banned for a decade in the United States after President
Bill Clinton in 1994 signed the Violent Crime Control and Law
Enforcement Act into law. But the prohibition was designed to expire in
2004, and Congress did not renew it.

And earlier today, another gun control advocate in Congress, Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), announced his plans
to introduce legislation banning a person from bringing a gun within
1,000 feet of government officials, including the president, vice
president, members of Congress and federal judges.

GUN SUPPORTERS HAVE 'STRUCTURAL ADVANTAGES'

While Horwitz is registered as a federal lobbyist
for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, his organization has not spent
much money -- in fact, zero reported expenditures -- on lobbying during
the last few years. If groups spend less than $5,000 on lobbying during
any quarter, they are not required to detail an exact amount.

Overall, gun control groups spent just $180,000 during the first nine months of 2010 and employed nine lobbyists, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics. Their ideological opponents, meanwhile, hired 49 lobbyists and invested $3.9 million during the same period.

The only gun control groups to meet the $5,000 per quarter reporting threshold last year were the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which spent $30,000 through September, and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which spent $150,000 through September.

The National Rifle Association, meanwhile, spent more than $2 million
during the same period.  That's on pace to exceed the $2.33 million the
group spent in 1998, when the Center first began tracking lobbying
expenditures.

Four other groups have spent at least six figures on federal lobbying efforts through September:

The
NRA's PAC also raised more than $15.3 million during the 2010 election
cycle -- ranking it among the top PACs in the country.

And it spent more than $12.2 million for the cycle, including a get-out-the-vote blitz called "Trigger the Vote," as OpenSecrets Blog previously reported.

Furthermore, the gun rights organization directly donated more than $1
million to federal congressional candidates, 68
percent of whom were Republicans and 32 percent of whom were Democrats.
Since 1989, the group has donated $18.2 million to federal-level
candidates, with 82 percent of that sum benefiting Republicans.

Additionally,
the NRA's PAC spent nearly $7.3 million during the 2010 cycle on
federal-level independent expenditures -- advertisements and messages
overtly supporting or opposing the election of a political candidate.
Those expenditures included $38,950 spent on ads advocating in favor of
Giffords' Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly.

The NRA, which didn't
respond to OpenSecrets Blog for comment on this story, has told other
media outlets that regarding the Arizona shootings, "anything other than
prayers for the victims and their families at this time would be
inappropriate."

Horwitz, of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence,
argued that gun rights groups such as the NRA and
Gun Owners of America enjoy "structural advantages" such as regularly
recruiting of new dues-paying members at gun shows across the country.

"We can't go to a gun show," he said.  "And there's no such thing as a victim's show."

Nevertheless,
he declared that his group and other gun control advocates would be
able to harness technology and the internet to organize and channel the
outrage.

"I'm very confident that our voice will be heard," he
told OpenSecrets Blog. "I've been around long enough to know that
spontaneous outrage is the key to legislative success. The question is,
can you keep that intensity up long enough to pass legislation?"

MIXED SUPPORT FOR PREVIOUS WEAPONS BAN

New restrictions would likely see an uphill battle on Capitol Hill.

Speaker
of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) voted against the 1994 crime bill
that included the assault weapons ban that outlawed high-capacity
ammunition magazines. So did Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
(R-Ky.) and nearly a dozen Republican senators still in office,
including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Notably, the bill was
first written by then-Sen. Joe Biden, now the vice president. It was
also supported by then-Rep. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who now serves in the
U.S. Senate, and Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), the man who Giffords
succeeded in Arizona's 8th Congressional District.

During the
shooting spree, six people were killed, including federal judge John
Roll, Giffords aide Gabriel Zimmerman and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor
Green. Another dozen were wounded.

Giffords, who was shot in the head, underwent surgery following the attack and remains in critical condition.

Giffords
herself is a gun owner and supporter of 2nd Amendment rights. Although
pro-gun interest groups such as the NRA and Gun Owners of America did
not rate Giffords highly
, in 2008, she signed onto an amicus brief in
support of gun owners in the controversial Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller,
which concluded that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to
possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia.

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