Preparing for life with Donald Trump as president and Republican majorities in Congress, Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group is threatening to spend more than $25 million in 2018 races.
Everytown for Gun Safety, founded and funded by the billionaire former New York City mayor, is hiring several new top staffers and turning much of its attention to state legislatures, while moving to a defensive posture in Washington as it tries to stop what’s known as “concealed carry reciprocity” from becoming law. That will include starting to score congressional votes, like the National Rifle Association does, to guide spending decisions more directly.
A bill to legalize concealed carry reciprocity was introduced last month with the strong support of the NRA, and Trump said during his campaign that he supported it.
Everytown is brandishing its significant spending in the 2016 New Hampshire Senate race that former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost narrowly — the group targeted her for voting against background checks in 2013 — as a warning to other senators up in 2018 and possibly 2020 as well.
“This is a line in the sand on this issue, there’s no question about it. The NRA wants to normalize carrying guns in public. It’s not where the American public is,” said Everytown President John Feinblatt. “We’re putting people on notice today that we’re watching … and that we expect to hold people accountable.”
Between Everytown and other avenues that Bloomberg and gun control advocates used, Ayotte had roughly $8 million spent against her. Bloomberg spent north of $25 million counting money he put into Senate races and into four state ballot measures on gun control, three of which passed.
Brynne Craig, most recently Hillary Clinton’s deputy director of state campaigns, is joining as Everytown’s managing director of external affairs and civic engagement. Kirk Fordham, a former GOP congressional staffer and executive director of the LGBT advocacy group Gill Action Fund, will be the new managing director of partnerships and strategic planning. Matt McTighe, the former executive director of another LGBT group, Freedom for All Americans, will be the new chief operating officer.
And Eric Schultz will advise Everytown’s communications and political strategy while continuing his role as a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama.
In addition to direct donations, Everytown is planning to activate its various networks to hound members at town halls on concealed carry reciprocity.
Americans for Responsible for Solutions, founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is also prioritizing the fight against legalizing concealed carry reciprocity. It’s also pushing back on efforts to deregulate silencers and expand guns in schools, and coordinating in part with Everytown on those efforts.
Part of what they’re facing, said ARS executive director Peter Ambler, is several Senate Democrats and Republicans who supported concealed carry reciprocity in previous Congresses when it was sure not to be signed by Obama. Now, Ambler said, those lawmakers don’t actually want it to become law now that there’s a president who would sign it.
“Consistency is a crucible for so many legislators, so we have to fight against that,” Ambler said. “But we’re making progress.”