President Obama’s biggest speech since being reelected is also a big opportunity on Tuesday for gun control advocates to keep the pressure on Washington to pass gun control legislation after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre.Obama has been the main driver of the new push to reduce gun violence in America after the school shooting and his State of the Union address this week has been seen by gun control advocates as a big chance to move the ball forward on legislation.
Washington will be abuzz with the forces that have helped keep the conversation about guns going: the re-energized grassroots gun control base and the new big-money groups aimed at giving gun control advocates resources to rival the National Rifle Association.
Things to watch around the speech:
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ)
Giffords, who was wounded in a mass shooting a little more than two years ago, and her husband Mark Kelly have become the two of the most prominent pro-gun control voices after Newtown. The couple will be on hand for the speech thanks to Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) — Giffords’ former staffer who replaced her after she resigned — and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Kelly and Giffords recently launched a super PAC aimed at supporting pro-gun control politicians. Groups like theirs and one founded by New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg are helping change the game on gun control, giving proponents the resources they never had to take on the NRA.
To that end, Kelly and Giffords will host a big fundraiser for their PAC before the president’s address “at one of Ms. Giffords’s favourite restaurants” in Washington, the New York Times reported over the weekend.
For years, the NRA’s power came both from its deep pockets as well as its ability to rally millions of grassroots gun rights supports to its cause quickly. Now, the gun control crowd is trying to beat the NRA at the grassroots organising game, using outrage over Newtown to build new lists and rally supports to the cause.
Progressive groups, which rely on the grassroots for their political power, have pledged to help Obama push his gun violence plan. Roll Call reported Monday that a new group focused on gun control patterned on the Million mum March “will paper Capitol Hill Thursday with anti-gun ‘Have a Heart’ valentines handmade by children.”
Gun control advocates in Congress will also give the grassroots effort a boost. USA Today reported Sunday that “more than 20 survivors of gun violence” will be guests of members of Congress at the SOTU thanks to an effort by Bloomberg’s group.
Among those touched by gun violence in the SOTU crowd Monday will be “the parents of Chicago shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton,” who are guests of First Lady Michelle Obama according to the Chicago Tribune.
organising For Action
The remaining infrastructure from Obama’s reelection campaign (now rebranded as “organising For Action”) will activate after the speech to push Obama’s goals, including his gun violence proposals. The AP reported Monday that OFA leaders “are planning two ‘national days of action,'” one focused on gun violence on Feb. 22 and another centered on the budget in early March.
The president will continue to use the bully pulpit to push for gun control measures as he did last week in Minnesota. On Friday, Obama will travel to his hometown of Chicago, where he is expected to talk about gun violence again.