Gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety announced Tuesday that it will be spending $5 million in Arizona to try to back Democrats up and down the ballot, with a focus on the U.S. Senate race and winning control of the state legislature for the first time in nearly 60 years.
The group, which earlier this year targeted Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally with a $43,000 ad campaign over her voting record on gun control measures, said the effort is part of a larger national push to elect candidates who back gun control measures. Her opponent, Democrat Mark Kelly, has built his public profile around reforming gun laws: He co-founded the gun-control advocacy group Giffords, named after his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2011.
“It’s clear Arizonans are fed up with lawmakers who refuse to put public safety first,” Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt said on a phone call with reporters. The $5 million being spent in Arizona is part of a $60 million campaign across the country, though Feinblatt said Arizona is a key state in the group’s effort.
One of the main areas of focus will be attempting to flip both the Arizona House and Senate to “gun sense” majorities, Feinblatt said.
Legislation championed by Everytown for Gun Safety to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers died this year when the Republican committee chairman refused to hear the bill. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence estimates that nearly 4.5 million women have been threatened by a significant other with a firearm.
Feinblatt said the organization plans to use the “same playbook” used to get lawmakers elected in Virginia in 2018 that has led to changes in that state’s gun laws, such as allowing localities to regulate firearms in public places and removing guns from those with protective orders against them.
“We are going to replace lawmakers who don’t act on gun safety,” Everytown for Gun Safety Senior Political Advisor Charlie Kelly said, adding that “it really does come down to Maricopa County.”
The group is planning on focusing its efforts on a handful of races: District 6, which runs from Payson to Flagstaff; District 17, which is Chandler-centric; District 18, which covers Ahwatukee and part of Chandler; District 20, which includes north Phoenix and part of Glendale; and District 21, which is centered on Peoria but also includes some portions of Sun City..
In addition to advertising on TV, in newspapers and on digital platforms, Everytown for Gun Safety is also planning on mobilizing newer voters, as well.
Anvitha Doddipalli, a student at Corona del Sol High School and a volunteer with Students Demand Action, said her group is aiming to register 4,500 young people to vote.
“Come November, we will demand action,” Doddipalli said.
A 2018 Gallup poll showed that 92% of Americans favor universal background checks as a way to prevent mass shootings. Additionally, Public Policy Polling found that 83% of gun owners say they support universal background checks.