Second Amendment advocates are making a last-minute push to turn out gun voters in the Georgia runoff elections as part of a multimillion-dollar effort to put guns at the forefront of the 2020 campaign.
The National Rifle Association told the Washington Free Beacon that it will send 100,000 text messages to supporters in Georgia on Tuesday encouraging them to vote in the Senate elections. That's the final part of a $4.5 million effort by the gun group to frame the races as the last defense against new federal gun control. By contrast, Federal Election Commission records show the top gun-control groups have spent just under $103,000 on the two races.
Timothy Lytton, a Georgia State University professor who has studied gun politics, said the spending contrast is an example of the different turnout strategies employed by each side in the race. He said that gun-control groups have remained relatively quiet to avoid hurting Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
"This runoff is really all about turnout," Lytton told the Free Beacon. "Republicans turn out for gun rights and religion. Those are the top Republican mobilizing issues in the state. And that's just not true for the Democrats."
The outcome of the two runoff elections will determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years—and the prospects for new gun-control laws. Republicans David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler are both endorsed by the NRA and oppose new gun restrictions, while Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety and support gun control. If both Democrats win, their party will control all levels of the federal government, and President-elect Joe Biden's gun-control proposals will have a better chance of making it into law.
Lytton said that while Ossoff and Warnock have taken positions supporting strict new gun laws, they have not run on the issue. Instead, the Democrats have shied away from the national push for restrictions to sell themselves as centrists to Georgia voters.
"The fact of the matter is, if you're a statewide candidate and you're looking for issues that are likely to not only turn out Democratic voters but also build yourself as more of a centrist, you're not going to go around Georgia thumping really hard on gun control and gun-violence issues," Lytton said. "You're going to be looking at other things that appeal more broadly like clean elections, clean government, health care, and the COVID response."
Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the NRA, told the Free Beacon that Georgia will play a central role in protecting gun rights under a Biden administration. The group has sent more than 2.3 million text messages, as well as 2 million mailers and pamphlets aimed at turning out pro-gun voters. They have also launched an expansive ground game, visiting 400,000 homes across the state.
"Georgia is home to a significant number of law-abiding gun owners, and the stakes of this Senate runoff could not be higher—for every Georgian and American," she said.
The largest expenditure by a gun-control group came in the form of an anti-Loeffler ad run by the Brady PAC in mid-December. Everytown for Gun Safety, which is the country's largest gun-control group and enjoys the financial backing of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, spent just under $3,000 in the runoffs.
Everytown and Brady did not immediately respond to a request for comment.