BY SEUNG MIN KIM AND COLLEEN LONG
WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s most prominent gun safety groups are joining together to back President Joe Biden in 2024, an early endorsement that underscores Biden’s grip on key Democratic coalitions as the party seizes on gun policy as a politically advantageous issue ahead of his reelection campaign.
The endorsement, obtained by The Associated Press in advance of the formal release, represents the first time the groups have jointly announced support for a presidential candidate. The groups include Brady and its youth-led arm, Team Enough; Community Justice Action Fund; Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action; and Giffords.
It also follows similar joint endorsements from abortion rights groups, labor unions and climate organizations — a strategy meant to demonstrate Biden’s strength among various party constituencies as he faces nominal primary challengers and skepticism from many Democratic voters over whether he should run for a second term.
In their endorsement, the groups pointed to the Biden administration’s record in establishing policies meant to reduce gun violence — most notably a bipartisan law enacted last year that marked the most comprehensive effort to restrict access to firearms in three decades.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris are leading the strongest gun-sense administration in American history, a title they have earned by doing everything in their power to protect our families and communities,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Executive Director of Moms Demand Action.
In all, the groups represent 15 million members. The endorsement also comes as Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at an Everytown event in Chicago on Friday.
Officials said the endorsement allows them to make an early and frequent contrast with Republican presidential hopefuls who are seeking to loosen gun laws at a time when gun violence is on the rise in the U.S., while mobilizing voters critical to Biden’s re-election strategy, such as suburban women, voters of color and younger voters.
Biden’s rhetoric has grown ever stronger around guns, including routinely calling for banning so-called assault weapons, political term to describe guns most often used in mass shootings with the capacity to kill a lot of people quickly. And he pushes a platform restricting guns that was all but politically unthinkable for Democrats as recently as Barack Obama’s term.
“We have taken the politics of yore and turned them on their head,” said Peter Ambler, the executive director of Giffords. “It is now a scarlet letter, not a badge of honor, to have the NRA endorsement.”
Ambler also added that Biden is “not just the beneficiary of a shifting politics on this issue, he is one of the people that shaped the politics of this issue through his decades of service in the Senate.”
Indeed, Biden has a lengthy and often personal history with the various gun groups. In its endorsement, Brady noted that the organization worked alongside Biden in 1994, when he was a senator, to pass a federal ban on certain high-powered firearms. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., who was nearly killed in a mass shooting in 2011 and the namesake of one of the groups that endorsed Biden, has spoken about the support from the then-vice president as she recovered from her injuries.
His aides say Biden has long understood that calling for tougher gun laws resonates with Americans, particularly after meeting with countless survivors and family members of gun violence victims, which has emboldened him to speak frequently about the topic.
“I think one of the things that’s most exciting about being president is that you can help change the conversation and change the narrative by being willing to go out there and speak boldly about an issue,” said White House staff secretary Stefanie Feldman, who previously worked at the Domestic Policy Council. “And he has done that since day one of his administration, even back on the campaign in 2020.”
In separate endorsements, Giffords, Everytown and Brady threw their support behind Biden in March 2020 – a time when the former vice president was campaigning to lock up the Democratic nomination against independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Community Justice Action Fund did not endorse in 2020.
“With their very first executive action on public safety, President Biden and Vice President Harris made historic investments in community violence intervention, demonstrating an unwavering commitment to treating gun violence as the public health emergency that it is, and taking the most significant strides toward ending this crisis in decades,” said Greg Jackson, executive director of Community Justice Action Fund.
Just over half of voters want to see nationwide gun policy made more strict, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 94,000 voters nationwide conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. And there are clear partisan divides. About 9 in 10 Democrats want stricter gun laws, compared with about 3 in 10 Republicans.
Biden’s rhetoric has grown ever stronger around guns. He routinely calls for banning so-called assault weapons, a political term to describe guns most often used in mass shootings with the capacity to kill a lot of people quickly.
In addition to last year’s bipartisan law, Biden issued an executive order that cracked down on “ghost guns,” homemade firearms that lack serial numbers used to trace them and are often purchased without a background check. He’s also moving to tighten regulations on pistol-stabilizing braces like one used in a Boulder, Colorado shooting that left 10 dead.
And last month, he announced another order that aimed to stiffen background checks to buy guns, promote more secure firearms storage and ensuring law enforcement agencies get more out of the bipartisan law enacted last summer.
“President Biden and Vice President Harris’s unflinching commitment to ending gun violence has been evident from Day One,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Julie Chavez Rodriguez, campaign manager for Biden’s reelection, said Biden and Harris were “humbled” to receive the endorsement and added that “the work is far from over, as MAGA Republicans in Congress continue to side with the NRA and stonewall common-sense legislation that would save American lives.”
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