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Biden pitches gun control in NRA country

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Vice President Joe Biden, President Barack Obama, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and Mark KellyWhen Vice President Joe Biden travels to Richmond, Va. today to participate in a roundtable about gun violence, he'll be visiting a state where the legislature largely has beaten back proposals to regulate guns, and where politicians have gotten $2.2 million in support from gun rights groups over the past two decades.

Most of that money—$2 million—came from the National Rifle Association, according to Sunlight Foundation's Influence Explorer.  By contrast, groups that support stronger restrictions on guns, such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, reported spending a mere $183,000 in Virginia over the same time span.  This spending includes campaign contributions, independent expenditures and electioneering communications.

MORE: For data on the gun debate, see the Sunlight Foundation's resource page.

Virginia is home to the NRA's national headquarters and to numerous lawmakers who get top ratings from the gun rights group, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican. It is also  site of the nation's deadliest mass shooting, in which a mentally ill student shot and killed 33 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007. The legislature has repeatedly beaten back proposals to extend background checks for gun purchase to gun shows. Last year, Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed a law to repeal the state's ban on the purchase of more than one handgun per month. In 2010, the state ordered that records of gun sales stopped being kept and any existing records be destroyed. 

But the state's former governor, Democrat Tim Kaine, won an open Senate seat last November in a race that drew more outside spending than any other Senate race in the country, including $350,000 from the NRA in opposition to Kaine. The newly-elected senator will be accompanying Biden to Richmond. 

The visit by Biden—seen above left with President Barack Obama and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a victim of gun violence who has joined the campaign for gun control—launches a barnstorming campaign by the administration to sell stricter gun laws to the American people. It comes as the state legislature is busy considering 10 bills in one week concerning guns rights and gun control.  State Delegate Mark Cole, a Republican whose campaign received $250.00 from the NRA in 2011, introduced one of the bills being considered this week that would allow armed guards to protect schools and child daycare centers. The NRA supports Cole's bill. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre called for posting armed guards in schools following  December's mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school where 20 children and six adults died.

Another bill being considered by the Virginia legislature would require background checks on gun purchasers at private sales that take place at gun shows. The NRA opposes this bill, which mirrors one of the measures that the Obama administration is backing on a federal level.

(Photo credit: The White House)