Everytown for Gun Safety is moving away from its core mission as the election approaches.
The country’s largest gun-control group, funded in large part by some of its richest billionaires, is investing a million dollars into a pair of state secretary races. It is targeting Republican candidates in Arizona and Michigan who have endorsed conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election. The group is spending in the races despite the positions having no control over gun policy.
“Everytown is going to make sure voters know that far-right candidates like Mark Finchem and Kristina Karamo, who deny election results and cozy up to extremist groups, are putting both our democracy and our lives at risk,” John Feinblatt, the group’s president, said in a statement.
The move represents an escalation in the gun-control group’s expansion into other issues. It comes after Everytown has already diversified its election messaging to emphasize abortion alongside, and often ahead of, guns. The strategy could reflect the declining salience of gun control for voters as the election nears or changing priorities for Everytown donors, such as Michael Bloomberg and Steve Balmer.
In Everytown’s ad targeting Arizona secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem, the group does not mention guns at all. Instead, it focuses on Finchem’s attempts to deny the outcome of the last election.
“Nothing’s more American than the right to vote, but Mark Finchem wants to change that,” the ad said. “He’s refused to address armed intimidation at polling places and still denies the results of the 2020 election. He’s even a member of the far-right militia group, the ‘Oath Keepers,’ that called for Senator John McCain to be hanged. Now he wants to oversee our elections, deciding who wins and loses. Extreme Mark Finchem is the last person we should trust with Arizona’s elections.”
Mailers sent out by the group against Finchem and Karamo do touch on gun policy alongside other issues such as abortion. However, both focus on claims the candidates would overturn election results they don’t like.
“Karamo has proven that she’ll put her radical, extremist agenda before our right to vote,” the Everytown mailer reads. “She’ll keep pushing fringe conspiracy theories, and if elected, she could abuse her power overturning an election result she personally disagrees with.”
Neither Mr. Finchem nor Ms. Karamo responded to requests for comment.
Everytown did not respond to questions about why it decided to shift focus shortly before the election or whether it plans to further expand its approach beyond guns. However, Charlie Kelly, an Everytown senior political advisor, told ABC News it would spend in future races that don’t directly impact gun policy if it determined that was the best strategy to meet their goals.
“If there are extremists and dangerous candidates like Finchem and Karamo running in future cycles, yes, we will be there in a significant way,” Kelly said. “These folks are putting their own sort of political priorities before our constitutional right to vote and our safety and should individuals like this decide to run in future elections, of course we’ll be there. We need to draw that contrast.”
Kelly said the group picked the Arizona and Michigan races by “working again with partners to fill gaps” in funding. Feinblatt offered an explanation for why the gun group views the races as in his group’s purview despite secretary of states doing little more than overseeing elections.
“Electing gun sense champions requires fair elections — and that requires electing Secretaries of State who will stand up to armed extremists threatening our democracy and fight for free and fair elections,” he said in a statement.
Other gun groups have also incorporated related issues into their ads as well. The NRA has added crime to its messaging ahead of the election. However, the gun-rights group has not spent money on issues or races that have no impact on gun policy in the way Everytown is now doing.