The gun control organization founded by gun violence survivor and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is sinking nearly $200,000 into digital ads starting Monday in three key Super Tuesday states: Minnesota, Texas, and Colorado.
The ads feature eight presidential candidates — including top contenders like Biden, Warren, and Sanders — speaking directly to camera about their plans to curb the gun violence epidemic in the country.
The short videos allow each candidate to speak personally about how gun violence has impacted their role as a public servant or shaped their policy-making process. They’ll run mostly on Facebook and YouTube.
“What we want to do via our Gun Safety President campaign is put these candidates directly in front of the gun safety voters and let them decide for themselves,” Peter Ambler, the executive director of the organization, told VICE News. “Across the country at kitchen tables, people are talking about keeping their communities safe, keeping their kids safe, not impeachment.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about consoling police officers who responded to the Sandy Hook shooting. “It just enraged me,” he said. He directly calls out gun manufacturers and the NRA, saying, “It’s wrong, it’s wrong. They should have more of a conscience the manufacturers, they should have more of a conscience, the NRA.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speaks about “young black and brown men” killed by police, while Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) clings to a message of hope that he witnessed on the streets of Newark.
“When there’s this many Americans dying every single day, it should demand for those of us who love this country, it should demand that we are instruments of hope, and never giving into despair, never surrendering to cynicism about this problem,” Booker says.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg described his own experience as a high school student during the Columbine shooting — and how little has changed in the twenty years since.
“It is the expectation of the American people that something will happen and what is dangerous is to allow more lives to be put at risk due to inaction on something as important as our safety and security,” he said.
It’s the second set of videos that the group has released featuring the Democratic presidential field. The first series of mashup video ads aired in September with more than $200,000 in backing, and garnered 10 million views online. Giffords also purchased $300,000 in digital ads just last week targeting Republicans in Virginia.
Ambler says the three states are more than just good targets for early and important places in the presidential primary process. Colorado and Texas “have deep and relatively recent histories with tragic instances of gun violence. They’re states where gun safety is top of mind.”
The six-figure purchase comes as the gun control debate has fizzled in Washington, D.C. after a summer of deadly shootings and a brief opening from the White House when President Trump expressed interested in working with Democrats to stop deadly and mass shootings.
But in the months since, lawmakers like Sen. Chris Coons (D-Conn.) have lost hope that a package of laws can pass soon. Even Democrats in the presidential race have disagreed over have to best handle some specific policy points in the gun control debate.
Buttigieg and O’Rourke sparred at the recent Democratic debate last week when Buttigieg criticized O’Rourke’s proposed policy of a mandatory buyback of assault weapons as a “shiny object,” and not a practical solution to gun violence.
“I think the energy and passionate that Beto is bringing to this primary and debate over guns are illustrative of the anger and passion that many Americans feel,” Ambler said, though the mandatory buyback is not a position that his organization has backed. “We have different policies that we have laid out to deal with assault weapons in circulation.”
Cover: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, flanked by (L-R) March for Our Lives Co-Founder David Hogg, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and March for Our Lives board member Ariel Hobbs, speaks during the 2020 Gun Safety Forum hosted by gun control activist groups Giffords and March for Our Lives at Enclave on October 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)