New Money Will Be Used to 'Punish' Pro-Gun Lawmakers in 2014

Republicans and Democrats both say gun-control debate favors them in 2014.

New York City Mayor MichaelBloomberg answers questions from members of the media outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, following his meeting with Vice President Joe Biden.
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"The battle field for competitive races are in suburban areas, which are the exact places Republicans are vulnerable for being too extreme on gun violence," one Democratic election strategist says. "People are hungry for common sense solutions on gun violence in suburban areas. Republicans are in some real danger electorally on this."

A new influx of money may keep the debate alive too, says Bill Allison, the editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group. A congressional race in Illinois' 2nd Congressional District revealed just how much the gun-control movement is willing to spend on the fight. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's super PAC Independence USA spent over $2 million on a primary to elect gun-control candidate Robin Kelly last week.

"Michael Bloomberg has some pretty deep pockets," Allison says. "Part of what Bloomberg's group is doing is to get notoriety and keep the issue in the center. There has not been much movement, and part of it was to make a display that there is money out there that will hit you in the next election if you don't do something."

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While its still unclear how Independence USA will use its resources in the midterm elections, Allison says Democrats and Republicans alike might be at risk. Even if a candidate thinks they are safe because they are in a Republican-leaning state or district where gun rights are important to constituents, Allison says Bloomberg's group could still attack candidates.

"There are all kinds of ways he can hurt lawmakers who are more on the fence," Allison says. "He can punish those members who are wavering with ads that are not related to gun control but to another sensitive issue in their district. There is not obligation when you have a lot of money to tell people why you are trying to tear down a candidate."

Bloomberg's group is one of half a dozen that have pledged to make elections uncomfortable for lawmakers who fail to act on gun-control legislation. Yet, the powerful NRA isn't expected to stay on the sidelines.

"Bloomberg is trying to manufacture a story line and use it as a means of saying his agenda is alive and well," NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told U.S. News last week. "We are involved in thousands of races in a given election year and we will continue to do so."

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While the gun-control debate is hot now, University of Virginia election expert Kyle Kondik expects the debate will cool and gun control will be a footnote in the storyline of 2014.

"I do not see it being a big national issue next year. I don't know if the Bloomberg super PAC is enough to keep this issue on the national forefront." Kondik says.

He argues that Bloomberg's actions in the Democratic primary attracted a disproportionate amount of attention to gun control.

"It was the only game in town. They knew they were going to get some PR bang for their buck," Kondik says.

But that won't keep constituents like Watts and moms from her group from pushing the issue. More than 200 moms will gather in Washington next week to meet with lawmakers, warn them about 2014 and urge them to act.

"Our goal is to put pressure on Congress. If you don't talk about this ... then you will be more at risk," Watts says.

Sen. Gillibrand says the issue won't be forgotten on Capitol hill either.

"For every parent who watched the horror of what happened in Newtown, Conn., this isn't going away," Gillibrand says.

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