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Organizing For Action Doubles Down On Push For Gun Control

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, May 9 2013

Dozens of volunteers for President Obama's advocacy group Organizing for Action on Thursday delivered the 1.4 million signatures that they gathered over the past 10 days to the leaders of the House. Kelly Byrne, OFA's gun violence campaign manager, said that the signatures are being delivered to both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Speaker John Boehner.

"By collecting petitions on the ground, and online, we really wanted to demonstrate that that support was overwhelming, and is everywhere, and that the Senate’s vote didn’t reflect the will of the people,” she told supporters in a weekly Wednesday evening conference call that was broadcast online.

Reps. Mike Thompson, (D-Calif.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.) introduced their version of expanded background check legislation at the end of April. The proposed legislation is exactly the same as the Senate version brokered by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa). More than 100 members of Congress are co-sponsors.

“We were active in New Hampshire, and Arizona and Nevada, really calling out senators who voted no on the Toomy-Manchin Amendment, and demonstrating in their states that there is overwhelming support for background checks," she said, referring to the gun-purchasing background check proposal that failed to garner the necessary votes in the Senate last month.

The group is also bringing three individuals who've either been shot, or whose relatives who've been killed in shootings to the Hill to meet with members of Congress to press their point home.

Politico recently reported that some of OFA's organizing has been faltering because many of its volunteers don't have the time to put as much effort into the group's activities, and are looking for jobs.

Nevertheless, the group's efforts are probably benefiting from the wider backlash both online and offline against the senators who voted against expanded background checks. Sen. Jeff Flake, a libertarian Republican from Arizona recently said that he's be willing to back the measure if the language on Internet sales of guns were changed to not ensnare online transactions between friends and family members using electronic tools to communicate.

OFA still faces difficult terrain ahead on the gun vote, however. As The Sunlight Foundation reiterated last month in an analysis of the politics and economics of Alaska, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota, these states have a relatively high ratio of gun stores per 100,000 people, as well as relatively low levels of support for President Obama (as judged by their votes in 2012.) That means that the Democratic senators of these states have little incentive to fall in line with their party on the vote. And while OFA may have been active in states like Arizona and New Hampshire, a map that the group published recently showing events supporters held on gun violence and related press coverage reveals no activity at all in Alaska.

During the Wednesday evening call, Emmy Ruiz, OFA's immigration reform campaign manager, also said that OFA is hiring organizers in several states around the country to bolster the group's efforts to push for speedy movement of immigration reform legislation through booth chambers of Congress.