/ Modified apr 9, 2014 7:54 a.m.

Gun Control PACs Making Headway

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' advocate group sees big influx of money; Mark Kelly says due to strong effort, change in how people think of gun related issues.



Recently released Super PAC fundraising reports of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly's gun control group show a great influx of money, which could reflect people's views on gun issues.

Super PACs are political action committees with no limits when it comes to raising money and spending it. Gifford and Kelly's Americans for Responsible Solutions is a member of the Super PAC, and was founded to "encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership," according to the group's website.

Kelly said the influx of money is due to a strong effort and a change in how people across the country think of gun related issues.

“We work really hard to raise the resources, so we will be effective in the 2014 elections...we work really hard at that.” Kelly said. "I traveled an incredible amount to meet with these 90 percent of Americans that feel that you should have a background check before buying a gun."

Robert Spitzer, chair of the Political Science Department at the State University of New York's Cortland College, said the financial reports are a snapshot of time, but they do help shore up a group's public opinion.

"Amount of money raised is, by itself, an important indicator of the muscle that an interest group has. Even if you don't spend the money, the ability to raise money, real money, just as it is in a political campaign," Spitzer said. "The candidate who is able to raise the most amount of money is often the frontrunner or seen to be the frontrunner, and that lesson sort of applies to interest groups, too."

Spitzer said the real test is to see whether or not groups like ARS have the political clout, such as the National Rifle Association, to survive for a long period of time.

The combination of staying power and money is new in the political world when it comes to gun control.

Anthony Corrado, expert on political finance with the Brookings Institution and the author of "The New Campaign Finance Sourcebook," said opposition to the NRA has never been so organized.

"We are now seeing, in this new world of super PAC's and organized groups, that that balance is starting to change," he added.

However, one good fundraising report offers no illusion that the NRA is now being challenged, according to Pia Carusone, executive director of the ARS.

"We've had over 220,000 individual donors, and so we know that we've got great support around the country, but we also know that what we are able to put together is just a fraction of what the corporate gun lobby is able to amass," she said.

Carusone said the NRA budget is more than $220 million a year, "so, it is kind of a David and Goliath situation."

The most recent financial reports for ARS showed individual donations as large as $50,000, and as small as $5. To build its staying power, the group is also spending time lobbying Congress and state legislatures as those bodies deal with gun control bills.

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