Midterms: Gun control groups outspend NRA and other gun rights rivals

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Gun rights groups flexed their influence during the 2016 election, spending nearly $55 million on media and advertisements, including nearly $20 million in opposition to Hillary Clinton and more than $11 million in support of Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, gun control groups had less of an impact, shelling out less than $3 million in outside spending.

In one of the biggest surprises of the 2018 midterms, gun control groups are actually outspending pro-gun groups. Gun control groups are spending more than in previous cycles, but the stunning shift has more to do with a precipitous drop-off in spending from gun rights groups — namely the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA and its affiliates typically account for almost all pro-gun outside spending, but the world’s largest gun rights group has been relatively quiet this cycle.

With the 2018 midterms expected to be the costliest ever, the NRA is not following the upward-spending trend, putting down just $7.3 million on ads and media to help its preferred candidates. It’s a stark difference from the 2014 midterms when the NRA spent north of $27 million.

The lag in spending could have something to do with the NRA’s budget deficits caused in part by a decline in member dues. The NRA did not respond to request for comment.

Still, the NRA has remained active in lobbying, spending more than $4 million this cycle, and it remains the biggest outside spender of all gun rights groups by far.

The NRA’s favorite current candidates are Republican Senate hopefuls Josh Hawley ($511,532) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn ($423,440). Its favorite target is Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.). The NRA spent more than $1 million on negative ads against Donnelly, whose grade with the group dropped from “A” in 2012 to “D” in 2018.

The NRA has had a falling out with some Republicans. Those include Florida Governor Rick Scott, whose grade dropped from “A” to “C” this year for signing a bill that raised the minimum age to purchase a long gun to 21 after the Parkland school massacre. Scott hasn’t received any support from the NRA in his bid for Senate.

Overall, gun rights groups still wholly support Republicans, spending more than $4 million opposing Democratic candidates and $3.6 million to support Republicans. When it comes to direct contributions, the industry has donated to 206 Republicans for a total of more than $2 million and six Democrats, for a total of just $55,350.

Gun control groups, as usual, spend along partisan lines as well. They have spent more than $5.6 million against Republicans and $4.1 million in support of Democrats.

The uptick in spending comes following last year’s Las Vegas Strip shooting — the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history — and the February Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead.

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ gun control-focused hybrid PAC/super PAC — known now as just Giffords — has spent north of $5.3 million to aid Democratic candidates this cycle.

The group spent more than $1 million in opposition of Representatives Jason Lewis (R-Minn.), John Culberson (R-Texas) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), hitting all three with television ads deploring their respective gun control voting records.

Between its political nonprofit and super PAC, Everytown for Gun Safety has spent more than $3.8 million to help Democratic candidates, but nearly all of it has gone toward Lucy McBath’s campaign for Georgia’s 6th District.

The Michael Bloomberg-backed group invested more than $3.5 million in supportive ads for McBath, who lost her son Jordan Davis to an act of gun violence in 2012. McBath was at one point the national spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and has made gun safety one of her biggest issues.

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