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Guns and Financial Ammo, The K Street Influence

Lauren Lyster
Daily Ticker

Gun control laws are up for major debate in the U.S., and in our continuing look at the firearms industry, we examine the role of special interests in the process.

To recap, it’s been a month since the Sandy Hook mass shooting, and President Obama Wednesday announced the most comprehensive effort to tighten gun laws in nearly two decades. His plan included signing 23 executive orders his administration can move forward on without lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He’s also issued legislative ideas he wants to push through Congress. These include reinstating the assault weapons ban and requiring universal background checks on gun purchases.

Related: Banning Assault Weapons Will Hurt Gun Companies–But So Does Most Regulation

While a political battle may lie ahead, special interests will undoubtedly be found along the road, trying to get legislation to veer in their direction.

In terms of the main lobbying players for and against tighter gun control, we seem to hear the most about the National Rifle Association. That may not be a coincidence.

“The reason we hear most about the NRA is because the NRA is really the force behind the gun rights lobbying efforts, as well as the independent expenditures which were made in the last election,” Viveca Novak tells The Daily Ticker.

This amounted to $18 million dollars worth of independent expenditures, says Novak, who is editorial and communications director at the Center for Responsive politics, a nonpartisan research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy.

According to CRP’s Open Secrets blog, independent expenditures are advertisements that expressly advocate the election or defeat of specific candidate and are aimed at the electorate as a whole.

And backing up the other side of the debate?

Novak reports the gun control groups don’t make any expenditures and spend a couple hundred thousand dollars on lobbying compared to the NRA’s close to $3 million.

While millions may sound like major money in politics, the NRA is not alone in a league of heavy hitters. In fact, Open Secrets found it ranked 176th in terms of lobbying spending when compared to other groups in 2012.

Related: The U.S. Firearms Industry: Inside the Numbers

But Novak indicates it’s difficult to compare the the NRA to other organizations, due to a passion factor that may not be quantifiable.

“It’s a group whose members I think have an unusual amount of passion for the issue,” she says. “They view it as something that’s connected to their basic bedrock constitutional rights, and when the NRA sends a message out to its membership...they get a reaction from their members, a very strong one.”

And while Novak reports gun rights political spending has seen uptick since the swearing in of a democratic president 4 years ago, we may see the ROI for this investment of money and passion in the gun control legislative battle ahead.