Campaigns

Giffords group launches pro-background check ads focused on Gardner, McConnell

First ads in a new roughly $750,000 buy hit airwaves this weekend

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., is the focus of a new ad campaign by the gun control advocacy group Giffords. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“Instead of making lesson plans, I’m making active-shooter plans.”

That’s what a woman identified as a Colorado schoolteacher named Jody says in a new issue ad campaign starting this weekend by the gun control advocacy group named for former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The group’s aim is to push Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner to back a House-passed gun purchase background check bill.

[Locking out ‘Team Mitch’ could cost Twitter]

Colorado has had multiple experiences with mass shooting over the years, dating back to the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999.

Gardner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are the initial focus of what Giffords’ group says is going to approach a $750,000 advertising buy in support of gun safety legislation. Gardner is among the most vulnerable Republican Senate incumbents on the ballot in 2020, and McConnell also faces a battle for reelection.

In a radio interview Thursday, McConnell said expanded background checks would be among the topics up for discussion when the Senate returns in September, but he has expressed no inclination to call senators back to Washington early. The Kentucky Republican has also stressed the need for any legislation that comes up to have a chance to be signed by President Donald Trump.

“I don’t want to engage in just finger-pointing or making a point. What’s happened after every one of these shootings is there’s been a temptation to just engage in political discourse rather than passing something,” McConnell said on WHAS radio. “I want to make a law, not just see this kind of political sparring going on endlessly, which never produces a result.”

[Colorado has never had a female senator. Could that change in 2020?]

McConnell has effectively rejected the idea of what could amount to show votes, but Giffords executive director Peter Ambler said it was important for the group to push for a Senate vote on the background check bill.

“Families across America are living in fear that gunmen will attack them at their malls, churches, movie theaters, and schools. Americans have had enough,” Ambler said in a statement. “They’re demanding action and they’re expecting change. Senate Republicans can either protect the gun lobby and its profits from dangerous gun sales or they can hold a vote on background checks to protect their constituents.”

The Giffords ad that will be running in media markets across Kentucky features the voice of a child calling for more immediate Senate action.

“Dear Mr. McConnell, I know that you’re on summer break, just like us kids, but I am writing to ask you to end your vacation early,” the child says in a voice-over. “I saw all the news about all those people who were hurt and killed. Some were even younger than me, just out shopping for school supplies.”

How much the effort affects what is expected to be an intensely competitive Senate race in Kentucky that draws advertising from around the country remains to be seen.

As of June 30, McConnell had $7.8 million in his campaign account.

[Kentucky Senate: Seriously, are we doing this again?]

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which works to keep the GOP in the majority and is subject to fundraising limits, had $12.6 million at June 30. McConnell has in past campaigns preferred to avoid using NRSC funds to support his own reelection efforts, so that the money can back up GOP senators and candidates across the country.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that can take unlimited contributions, had $10.9 million on June 30, while a grassroots group committed to ousting McConnell, called Ditch Mitch, had $1 million.

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