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Gun interests spend millions to influence lawmakers

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photo of gun aiming at targetIn the wake of the Batman movie massacre, Colorado's second mass killing in recent memory, much is being written about the unlikeliness of the tragedy leading to the kind of gun control legislation that might have prevented another troubled young man from amassing a huge arsenal. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was quoted in the New York Times on Saturday venting his frustration at the inertia of both major party's presidential candidates.

The gun lobby is one of the most influential in Washington -- as well as state capitals -- and figures available on Sunlight's Influence Explorer describe its reach. That clout is not just confined to the National Rifle Association, with its $25.6 million in campaign contributions and nearly $24 million in lobbying expenditures since the late 1990s, or to the lesser-known but equally if not more politically aggressive Gun Owners of America, which has spent $25 million lobbying Congress.

According to news reports, James Holmes, the suspect in the Aurora, Colo. mass shooting, was armed with a 12-gauge Remington shotgun, a Smith & Wesson semi-automatic assault rifle and two Glock pistols -- all of which he purchased during a six-week period earlier this year. 

Since the late 1990s, according to Influence Explorer, Smith & Wesson has spent $2.2 million lobbying Congress, mainly via the Greenberg Traurig firm. Over the years, Greenberg Traurig's political action committee (PAC) and its employees have given $11.6 million in campaign contributions, including more than $300,000 to President Obama. 

Remington Arms has spent nearly $1.4 million lobbying Congress through two entities picked up by Influence Explorer, Remington Arms and Remington Arms Company. Data downloaded from Influence Explorer show that Remington employees have given more than $132,000 in campaign contributions since the mid-1990s, including $7,500 to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's unsuccessful 2008 bid for the White House.

Glock does not show up on Influence Explorer or the Senate Office of Public Records as lobbying Congress but its employees have made some $66,000 in campaign contributions, data downloaded from Influence Explorer show. One of the most recent contributions from a Glock employee, company Vice President Joshua Dorsey, went to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which has given more than $700,000 in campaign contributions and spent more than $1.2 million lobbying Congress. According to its most recent tax forms, the foundation spent $1.5 million on voter education, $18 million on government relations (which likely reflects lobbying at the statehouse level), and $2.8 million in communications during 2010, and ended the year with $39 million in assets. The foundation's lobbying team includes former Democratic Rep. Max Sandlin and Randy Schuenemann, a longtime Republican aide who has worked for former Senate Republican Leaders Trent Lott and Bob Dole. Among the Foundation's recent political contributions, according to data downloaded from Sunlight's Influence Explorer: $1,000 to the campaign committee of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; $1,000 to Boehner's leadership PAC, and $4,000 to the Green Mountain PAC of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

(Photo credit: Michael Kurtz via iStockphoto.com)