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Gun Control Groups Spend Millions On State Ballot Initiatives

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Gun Control Groups Spend Millions On State Ballot Initiatives

Guns are seen inside a display case at the Cabela's store in Fort Worth, Texas, June 26, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Gun safety advocates are pouring tens of millions of dollars into Maine and Nevada to support ballot initiatives that would mandate background checks for gun sales in an effort to clinch state-level victories after years of failed drives in Congress.

The avalanche of money spent on supporting such initiatives ahead of the Nov. 8 vote could hand gun control organizations their biggest win since they failed to secure the passage of federal legislation after the massacre of 26 children and educators at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school in December 2012.

Voters in California and Washington state will also cast ballots on gun control initiatives, and opinion polls show the measures are likely to pass in all four states.

Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control group founded by billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has been leading the charge, throwing its financial weight behind three of the four measures. The organization plans to spend $25 million nationwide on the issue, almost as much as the powerful National Rifle Association has spent on television advertising for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

The right to own firearms is protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and any efforts to restrict that guarantee are fought vehemently by gun rights advocates, who are highly influential within the Republican Party.

Victories by gun control groups in Maine and Nevada would mean that half of the U.S. population would live in states with expanded background checks, including private sales not involving a licensed dealer.

Gun control supporters say that would be a symbolic and strategically important threshold.

Opponents of the measures say the laws are poorly written, would do little to combat crime and would punish law-abiding gun owners.

A University of New Hampshire poll in late October found 52 percent of Maine residents support the measure and 43 percent oppose it. In Nevada, two polls in late October found a 16-percentage-point margin and a 25-point margin in favor of the initiative, respectively.

The measures come in a year that voters around the United States will weigh in on 71 citizen-submitted ballot initiatives on topics ranging from marijuana legalization to raising the minimum wage, the largest number in a decade, according to Ballotpedia.org, a website that tracks voting data.


Everytown described its strategy as part of an effort to copy the state-by-state tactic that helped legalize gay marriage across the United States, with Congress unwilling to pass universal background check legislation.

“One of the great advantages of going directly to the electorate is that you can go around the legislative bodies and make law,” said Zach Silk, a consultant who has worked with Everytown in Nevada and previously helped oversee Washington state’s 2014 successful background-check ballot initiative.

Nevada in particular has become an expensive battleground. Bloomberg has personally donated nearly $10 million to the effort there, and Nevadans for Background Checks had collected $14.3 million as of Oct. 18. That is nearly triple the $4.8 million that the leading opposition group, NRA Nevadans for Freedom, had received, all from the NRA.

In Maine, supporters of background checks have outspent opponents by more than 5-to-1, with the Everytown-backed Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership Fund reporting $5.3 million in contributions as of last week.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment on its campaign spending decisions.

Critics have accused Bloomberg of trying to buy victory.

“This law is convoluted and way overregulatory,” said David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and a former state legislator. “It reflects the person funding this initiative, Michael Bloomberg. His solutions are overkill, and they border on social engineering.”

But Everytown’s executive director, John Feinblatt, said it was the gun lobby that has tried to take power away from the citizenry.

“While the NRA can control legislators and the government, they can’t control the people,” he said.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

IMAGE: Guns are seen inside a display case at the Cabela’s store in Fort Worth, Texas, June 26, 2008. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi



  1. Jon November 2, 2016

    Two police officers were ambushed and killed today while sitting in their patrol cars, one in Des Moines, Iowa and one in Urbandale which is nearby. That we still allow the mentally ill, career criminals, and violent people easy access to guns is insane unless you are the NRA. If you are a gun manufacturer or promote them as the NRA does, then arming every psychotic, criminal, terrorist, and violent-prone person makes economic sense. If you are not arming these people, how can you persuade rational non-violent people to buy guns to protect themselves from the 1st group they armed?
    How many innocent lives are lost to gun violence isn’t part of their calculation. They create a frightful situation and use the fear they created as a reason more people need to buy a gun. They create the false belief that if you have a gun you are protected from others who have guns. Sadly the murders of the 2 police officers in Iowa proves just how fallacious the NRA sales pitch is.

    1. FireBaron November 3, 2016

      Part of the problem regarding the mentally ill is the Doctor-Patient Confidentiality agreement that prevents psychiatrists and psychologists from being “coerced” into reporting their patients to a national database. Another problem is the ease of accessing forged documents that allow a violent felon or career criminal to legally access firearms. A third is the “straw buyer”. You find someone and pay him to buy a firearm, then “sell” it to you. As private sales are not monitored, this is how many are acquired.

      1. Jon November 3, 2016

        Yes there are many loopholes that need to be closed in an effort to ensure stable, nonviolent citizens can purchase guns. There is a monthly flea market near here where you can buy almost anything. There are always dozens of guns including shotguns, rifles, assault rifles, revolvers, and pistols. Anyone with the cash can buy whatever they want. These would have to be outlawed. The “straw buyer” problem could be curtailed by outlawing the practice and prosecuting those who broke the law. It would include those “straw buyers” who purchase the gun and let the intended recipient “use” it. As to forged documents criminal penalties could be enhanced when they are used to purchase a gun coupled with a sufficient waiting time to permit a background check to determine if the documents are valid. As to the the doctor-patient privilege, an exception can be created when a person applies for a gun permit or foid card. Questions should be asked such as “Are you now or have you ever been treated for a mental illness? If so, list the names of all treating professionals, their addresses, and 1st and last date of treatment. Have you ever been involuntarily hospitalized for treatment of a mental illness? If so, list the names of the facilities or institutions, addresses, treating professionals and dates of treatment.” They should be advised that they must agree to waive their doctor-patient privilege with respect to their application and any documents or information obtained will be maintained in a sealed confidential file which can only be opened if ordered by a court. While this would not screen out those with an undiagnosed mental illness or those with a mental illness who have never been treated for it. The only information relevant to the application is whether the person’s mental illness makes them a danger to others if they are allowed to own a gun or could it make them a danger in the future.
        Nothing will completely stop the flow of guns into the hands of those who are too dangerous to have them. There will always be forgeries and fraudulent schemes by those intent on flouting the law. I don’t pretend that what I have laid out is complete. I am just proposing some guidelines that need to be given more attention than I have given them here. A fair balance between 2nd Amendment rights and public safety needs to be found. Every right we have is tempered with common sense limitations such as no one having the 1st Amendment Right to yell “fire” in a theater. For the sake of saving innocent lives we must do a lot better than we are doing now.

        1. dpaano November 4, 2016

          It’s interesting that insurance companies have access to every individual’s medical records, including visits to psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health facilities, etc. If they have that information and use it to decide whether or not to insure someone, there’s no reason why that can’t be used in a background check of the person’s mental faculties! No individual is every going to readily “admit” that he’s been seen by a mental health individual or has been in a mental health facility…..something has to be made available to the government or to the law enforcement agency to verify if this is a true or false statement.

          1. Jon November 4, 2016

            Agreed. There must be an exception to the doctor-patient privilege and/or a waiver of the privilege to allow background checks of those wanting to buy a gun.

          2. dpaano November 7, 2016

            It would be so much easier to use their stuff since most physicians and hospitals have their own portals.

      2. charleo1 November 3, 2016

        A good point. However, medical ethics does not prevent doctors, and other healthcare workers from reporting potentially dangerous persons, or even unreported crimes admitted to in the course of therapy. In fact, in the case of some crimes such as child sexual they are required by law to report these possible crimes to authorities. And you’re spot on as to the work arounds that serve felons, domestic terrorists with all the firepower
        they might need.

  2. dpaano November 4, 2016

    From what I understand, 80% of gun owners and NRA members are FOR more stringent background checks and more laws as to who is allowed to purchase or carry a weapon. Not sure why the NRA doesn’t listen to its members! The government is doing NOTHING to take away their rights to own or carry weapons….they are only trying to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who should NOT have them! You’d think the NRA would be on board with this!


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