In the year following the Sandy Hook massacre, gun control activists have spent millions lobbying for reform laws, but there has still been little progress made this year on the federal level, according to a new report released Monday from the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency group.
In 2013, gun-control groups spent five times as much as they had the previous year pushing for reforms, including increased background checks and bans on high-capacity ammunition clips and guns. They found success in states like Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Colorado.
But thanks to a polarized and paralyzed Congress, the ramped up spending and organization was for naught.
The most recent lobbying reports show gun control groups like Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence spent a combined $1.6 million campaigning on Capitol Hill. The groups hired three dozen new lobbyists, many of whom had never lobbied on guns before, but were well-connected to Fortune 500 companies and influential decision-makers on Capitol Hill. They also got their message out on the airwaves and in special election campaigns. Mayors Against Illegal Guns ran ads in 17 states this year and the super PAC Independence USA spent $3 million on campaigns.
On the national level, lobbying spending by powerful pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association dwarfed the gun reform efforts. The NRA and others spent more than seven times as much in 2013, doling out $12.2 million on lobbying, according to the Sunlight Foundation.
But the NRA spent relatively little when it came to campaign spending, though it may not have been necessary to achieve their goals. Pro-gun groups were able to recall lawmakers in Colorado for their push to strengthen gun laws in the state.
This year was the first time since 2004 that the gun control issue was the focus in Washington, but the gridlocked Congress failed to come to a consensus and no new laws have been enacted.
Reform advocates wanted Congress to pass new laws to strengthen background checks and reduce the kind of ammunition clips available to buyers. Pro-gun groups, meanwhile, fought to maintain the status quo and not add any new laws to the books.
The Senate moved to pass a comprehensive gun bill in April that would have required every gun buyer to pass a background check before purchasing a firearm online or at a gun show. Yet, even that small reform stumbled. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives never acted.
Since Sandy Hook, Americans are less engaged or interested in the gun control debate, according to recent polls. Public surveys following the shooting showed more than 80 percent of Americans in favor of at least strengthening background checks, similar to the failed Senate initiative. Now, fewer than 50 percent support an overall gun law overhaul. The polls indicate the gun control debate may not mobilize voters in the way Democrats had hoped for in 2014 when they planned to used the issue in competitive swing districts in the suburbs of New York, Pennsylvania and Colorado to gain seats in the House of Representatives.