Giffords 2018 #VoteThemOut political program aims to bring gun safety champions to Congress
May 3, 2018 — One day before President Trump takes the stage at the annual NRA convention in Dallas, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, announced the next round of priority races in their #VoteThemOut campaign, part of their 2018 political program focused on defeating politicians who, for years, have refused to pass any gun violence prevention legislation.
“We are putting gun-lobby backed politicians on notice that they can’t hide from their record any longer,” said Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords. “The energy we’ve seen at marches, rallies and protest across the country show voters are ready to turn the page on a gridlocked Congress that refuses to protect our kids and communities from gun violence. They know why solutions to save lives haven’t moved at the federal level, and they’re no longer willing to accept a political system that’s been rigged by the National Rifle Association. We are making it crystal clear that the time has come to hold politicians to account for failing to protect us and to vote them out.”
The announcement today builds on the first wave of priority races announced by Giffords in February, bringing the total of incumbents the organization is seeking to unseat up to a total of 12 so far. As part of the campaign, Giffords also released a series of new digital ads today highlighting the close ties between 10 of the #VoteThemOut incumbents and the National Rifle Association.
Today, Giffords also launched a new digital resource for voters spotlighting the elected officials they are seeking to unseat. The overall effort is working to clear the deck and make room for new leaders in Congress pledge to support legislation that will address the country’s gun violence epidemic.
The second round of elected officials Giffords is seeking to unseat includes:
- Jason Lewis – US House, Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District. Jason Lewis supported the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, despite opposition from Minnesota law enforcement. Lewis has opposed common sense gun safety laws such as universal background checks, and even voted to roll back restrictions on gun purchases by the mentally ill.
- Cathy McMorris Rodgers – US House, Washington’s 5th Congressional District. After the Parkland shooting, Rodgers planned to appear at a fundraiser where an AR-15 would be auctioned off. That’s not surprising coming from someone who has accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the NRA since 2004 and voted to loosen restrictions on interstate gun purchases and supported cross-state concealed carry reciprocity.
- Steve Knight – US House, California’s 25th Congressional District. Steve Knight has repeatedly opposed laws aimed at keeping California’s schools and streets safe. In the wake of the shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Knight voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which dramatically undermines California’s strong gun laws.
- Mimi Walters – US House, California’s 45th Congressional District. In 2017, Walters voted to weaken laws prohibiting people with mental illnesses from purchasing firearms. She also voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, despite opposition from California law enforcement.
- Don Bacon – US House, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. During his first term, Don Bacon voted for concealed carry reciprocity and also voted to weaken restrictions on firearm purchases by individuals with mental illnesses. In an NRA survey, Bacon stated that he was against a ban on semiautomatic weapons, universal background checks, and a federal gun database.
- John Faso – US House, New York’s 19th Congressional District. After the Parkland shooting, John Faso avoided addressing gun safety measures by directing criticism at the FBI for failing to prevent the tragedy. It adds to Faso’s abysmal gun safety record, having voted to block debate on a bill that would require firearms dealers to wait until a background check is complete before selling a firearm.
Background on Giffords’ Political Program
The initial step to this growing list of races began in the hours after the Parkland shooting, when Giffords used #VoteCourage to get people to pledge to support candidates in November who will stand up to the gun lobby and fight for safer communities. In less than a week more than 450,000 Americans took the pledge.
Following the #VoteCourage pledge, Giffords began this ongoing, robust political program to shine a light on incumbents’ record of prioritizing the interests of the gun industry over public safety. It is encouraging voters to support candidates with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. Along with the digital advertisements going out today and the website database the program will include TV advertising, on-the-ground organizing and events, and a voter registration push.
Giffords launched a partnership with NextGen America and Everytown for Gun safety on a voter registration effort that is committing an initial $1.5 million to seek to get up to 50,000 Americans aged 18-19 registered for the midterm elections. In 2017, Giffords launched its candidate training program to help educate candidates who want to run on a gun safety platform and plans to expand the program in 2018.
The mass shooting at Parkland, in Florida, crystallized the country’s frustration with the lack of any action to pass gun safety laws. Gun death rates have climbed to levels not seen in decades. Currently, the country is averaging nearly 34,000 deaths from guns every year, and recent polling shows that support for stronger gun laws is at an all-time high.
Last November saw gun safety champions win commandingly across the country – from statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey to a key state senate seat in Washington state. The elections sparked what has become known as the suburban rebellion in the districts that will matter to who will have control of Congress next year.
In 2016, Giffords flagship program was in the US Senate race in New Hampshire, where it invested $2.6 million in a targeted campaign to defeat incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte by reminding voters of her vote against universal background checks, making the race a referendum on gun violence prevention.
Suburban voters overwhelmingly support safer gun laws, making most Republican incumbents in suburban districts out-of-step with their voters on the issue. Two bills to further regulate or ban the sale of bump stocks that were introduced in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting have a combined 15 Republican co-sponsors, all of whom represent politically vulnerable districts. This is a sign that House Republicans understand that opposing reasonable gun safety measures could be a political liability in 2018.
Giffords PAC works to reduce gun violence and save lives by empowering voters with information and supporting candidates who will fight for a safer future.