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Gun Rights Groups Boost Lobbying 61% to Defeat New Laws

April 23 (Bloomberg) -- Supporters of gun-owners’ rights spent almost $1.5 million during the first three months of this year -- a 61 percent increase over the same time last year -- to defeat Senate proposals restricting firearm purchases after the slaughter of 20 elementary school students in Connecticut.

Advocates of new gun legislation also boosted their lobbying spending by at least fivefold in the first quarter of 2013 compared with a year earlier. The Senate on April 17 failed to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun purchasers and a renewal of an assault weapons ban.

The National Rifle Association reported spending $700,000 on lobbying from January to March, congressional disclosures show. That was up from $575,000 during the same period a year ago. Another gun rights organization, Gun Owners of America, boosted its spending to $313,032 in 2013 from $272,075 in 2012.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc., the trade group for gun manufacturers such as Sturm Ruger & Co. Inc. and Smith & Wesson Holding Corp., spent $480,000, six times the $80,000 spent a year ago.

The foundation is based in Newtown, Connecticut, near Sandy Hook Elementary School students, where the children and six adults were killed Dec. 14, spurring a call for new gun legislation.

The NRA also reported hiring additional outside lobbyists, including Scott Styles, former chief of staff to House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican.

On the other side, Mayors Against Illegal Guns formally registered to lobby on April 1. The group was co-founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Pro-Restrictions Lobby

The organization spent $250,000 during the first quarter of 2013 on outside lobbyists, a fivefold increase over the $50,000 spent during the first three months of 2012.

The mayors’ group, too, brought in additional outside lobbyists who formerly worked in government, including Jamie Hantman, a one-time aide to President George W. Bush; Carlyle Thorsen, a former deputy attorney general and aide to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican; and Robert Stevenson, a former spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican.

The hires came before the Senate fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance legislation requiring background checks for most gun purchases and the weapons ban.

Currently, those buying firearms at gun shows and online do not have to undergo the checks in some states as compared with those buying from registered dealers.

The background checks amendment was favored by a majority, 54 senators. It was crafted by a bipartisan group of senators, led by Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, in response to the Newtown killings. The assault weapons ban drew 40 favorable votes from the Senate’s 100 members.

A Jan. 30-Feb. 2 poll by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, showed 92 percent of registered voters favoring expanded background checks, including 91 percent of gun-owning households.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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