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State of the Union Intensifies Gun Fight

Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Participants with One Million Moms for Gun Control march across the Brooklyn Bridge during a rally in New York City last month.

The passion of gun owners has met the passion of protective moms in the fight over firearms restrictions, which will intensify this week as President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address.

Against all odds, a coalition that includes suburban moms, religious leaders, mayors and long-embattled gun safety lobbyists has set out to neutralize the grass-roots power of the 4.5 million-member National Rifle Association. It’s a tall order, but gun safety groups say they’ve drawn money and members since the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Obama will promote his gun safety agenda in his annual address to Congress on Tuesday, the first time in more than a decade that the State of the Union will tackle the emotional topic of guns. His new grass-roots advocacy group, Organizing for Action, is also urging its members to mobilize behind the president’s agenda, which includes a ban on military-style assault weapons and universal background checks for gun purchasers.

Gun safety advocates plan rallies and news conferences Monday in at least a dozen congressional districts. The activists will urge key lawmakers they view as persuadable on the issue to support the president’s gun proposals.

“Intensity matters a lot, and right now we have it,” said Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of 850 mayors backed by New York’s Michael Bloomberg. “The public sentiment, including among gun owners, to do everything we can to fix this problem is as high as it’s been in a generation.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns will bring some 100 gun violence survivors to Capitol Hill this week to lobby members of Congress. The group ran a $100,000 ad during the Super Bowl. Also this week, a new advocacy group and super PAC founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and her husband, Mark Kelly, will unveil a TV ad with a gun safety message. The PAC reportedly aims to raise $20 million this year.

Another Bloomberg-backed PAC, Independence USA, has unleashed more than $600,000 worth of ads attacking Democrat Debbie Halvorson, a congressional candidate in the special primary in the Illinois 2nd District, for her past NRA support.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, One Million Moms for Gun Control, a shoestring group started by a mother of four in suburban Indianapolis, will paper Capitol Hill Thursday with anti-gun “Have a Heart” valentines handmade by children.

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