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Bloomberg’s anti-gun group planning $8 million Texas gun control campaign

Maryland state Sen. William C. Smith, Jr. speaks at a news conference organized by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action on Gun Violence at the Maryland House of Delegates Office Building urging passage of gun control legislation this session. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette/TNS)
February 20, 2020

Everytown for Gun Safety, a group tied to Democratic presidential candidate and billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is setting its sights on Texas as its latest target for new gun control measures.

The gun control group shared is planning an at least $8 million push for candidates and advertising for its gun control agenda, according to a memo it shared exclusively with Hearst Newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle on Wednesday.

“We believe that Texas, as it becomes younger and increasingly diverse, can be the next emerging battleground state with gun safety as the tipping point,” Chris Carr, the group’s political director said in the memo. “We believe there are opportunities to elect gun sense candidates up and down the ballot, from the statehouse to the U.S. Congress — and potentially even statewide.”

At the national level, the group is reportedly planning a $60 million election-year push to promote its agenda across the country. The spending plan would more than double the group’s spending during the 2018 midterms in which Democrats, many of whom were in favor of gun control, won control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Texas represents a major part of the overall national strategy.

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“Texas is definitely the big target,” said Shannon Watts, who founded the Everytown-affiliated group, Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Watts said the group already has around 400,000 volunteers in Texas at the moment.

Texas has been known for its support of less strict gun laws, however, the gun control group said they have rising support for measures it has called for, including 87 percent support for background checks on all gun purchases, and 80 percent support for red flag laws.

The group’s polling appears to have some backing from a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll that found 79 percent of respondents favored expanded mental health and background checks on gun purchases.

The gun-control group’s spending efforts reportedly hope to defend a vulnerable U.S. Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher who flipped a seat in the Democrats’ favor in 2018. Her seat is now considered among the most vulnerable seats for Democrats going into 2020.

The gun-control group is also challenging Republicans seeking reelection including U.S. Reps. Dan Crenshaw, Michael McCaul, Chip Roy, and John Carter. The group is also targeting other seats left open by retiring Republicans, such as Rep. Will Hurd.

Texas gun rights advocates, including The Texas State Rifle Association, have mobilized their own response to the gun control push in recent months.  The Texas State Rifle Association helped Republican Gary Gates beat Democrat Eliz Markowitz, a gun control proponent, in a recent special election to fill a seat in the Texas state House.

Following Gates’ special election win, the rifle association warned that “Though gun control advocates and gun-grabbing politicians failed to lay down a marker in this particular contest, the amount of resources they invested in this race demonstrates their commitment to turn Texas ‘blue.'”

The Everytown gun control proponents are fresh off recent victories in Virginia, which tipped both houses of the Virginia state legislature in favor of Democrats, including many candidates who joined onto the group’s gun control platform.

The Virginia legislature has pushed for a series of gun control bills, including an “assault weapons” ban, though they have met resistance from a widespread “Second Amendment sanctuary” movement that has seen localities declare they would not enforce new gun control measures. Earlier this week Virginia lawmakers voted to table the proposed “assault weapons” ban for the year.