Former astronaut Mark Kelly started the gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions ten months ago, when, while visiting China, he learned of the deaths of 20 children in Newtown, Conn.
It was almost two years after his wife — former Rep. Gabby Giffords — had been shot.
Ten months after Newtown, the group continues to grow and has raised over $11 million from 130,000 donors, Kelly told ABC News on Friday.
Now, Kelly, Giffords and their team want to turn those funds toward the 2014 midterm elections.
“We would like to spend in the 2014 elections what the NRA spent in 2012,” he said.
The National Rifle Association spent roughly $19 million during the 2012 election cycle, and Kelly said he was confident his group can match that.
“We’ve got the resources to be effective for the 2014 elections,” he said.
But confidence in gun control groups like Americans for Responsible Solutions and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, backed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, may be even more shaken after this summer’s successful recall of two Colorado state senators who supported stricter gun legislation, as well as the Senate’s failed attempt in April to pass a background checks bill.
“You’ve got to give [gun lobbyists] a lot of credit, especially the NRA has done a fabulous job in trying to accomplish what their goals are,” Kelly acknowledged.
Given the NRA’s grip on Capitol Hill, Kelly said, “our goal is to eventually have an organization that is as formidable as the gun lobby.”
On Sunday, Kelly, Giffords and Americans for Responsible Solutions executive direction Pia Carusone will join New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman at the Saratoga Springs Arms Fair to talk about the state’s efforts to implement a firearm background check and tracking system at these shows.
“At the federal level, we still have no requirement for background checks at gun shows, but states like New York are fixing the loophole,” Kelly said in a statement. “This is a chance for Gabby and I to visit New York’s largest arms fair and highlight this background checks system, which we believe can serve as a template for gun shows around the country.”
And polls show that Americans for Responsible Solutions and other groups that support stricter gun laws have the support of the public. An April Gallup poll found that 83 percent of Americans support instating background checks before every gun purchase.
“The interesting thing about this issue is that we don’t have to change anyone’s mind about the policy. … You just have to change their mind about the politics,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to give them the confidence that they can stay in office, and I think we can do that.”