Research Tool Kit: Gun Laws, Lobbying and Influence in the United States


With the U.S. Senate expected to take up gun legislation next week and recent passing of gun laws in Connecticut, Colorado and Maryland, we put together a tool kit on the issues around gun rights and gun control. For more information, you can follow the money, influence and news on the issue of gun control and gun rights in the U.S. at our resource page.

Keep reading for information about state legislation, swing votes in the Senate, political spending by gun rights and gun control groups, details on how they lobby Congress and where they are airing TV issue ads.

State Bills

You can now track gun legislation in all 50 states using Sunlight’s free Scout policy alert tool. We have three bill collections already online that you can follow and receive email alerts when states move ahead on them:

Fast Facts
  • Legislation related to guns on school grounds has come up in at least three dozen states.
  • At least 36 states introduced bills to nullify any gun control measures that Congress enacts since January.
  • 40 states plus the District of Columbia do not make data available about who owns a gun or has received a state permit to carry a gun.
Senate Swing Votes
We created a 0-10 scoring system on factors that could lead to a higher likelihood of a U.S. Senator opposing gun control legislation (where 10 is most likely to support gun reform and 0 is least likely). We used these calculations to identify 26 likely swing votes in the Senate. Also check out this infographic or get all the data for our Senate Gun Reform Index.

Senator State Gun Reform Index
Mark Udall CO 10.00
Michael Bennet CO 9.12
Mary L. Landrieu LA 8.71
Tom Udall NM 8.50
Brian Schatz HI 8.35
John D. Rockefeller IV WV 7.65
Bernard Sanders (I) VT 7.64
Mark Pryor AR 7.00
Martin Heinrich NM 6.99
Mark Warner VA 6.86
Bob Casey PA 6.59
Angus King ME 6.38
Patrick J. Leahy VT 6.34
Heidi Heitkamp ND 5.59
Joe Donnelly IN 5.82
Harry Reid NV 5.68
Mark Begich AK 5.02
Tim Johnson SD 4.10
Jon Tester MT 3.71
Joe Manchin III WV 2.93
Max Baucus MT 0.00


Senator State Gun Reform Index
Mark Steven Kirk IL 10.00
Daniel Coats IN 4.78
Susan Collins ME 3.55
Marco Rubio FL 1.03
John McCain AZ 0.00

Campaign Contributions

GunMoneySince1989We tallied state and federal political donations given by gun rights and gun control groups covering direct contributions to candidates, parties and PACs since 1989.
Fast Facts
  • 51 percent of the new members in Congress received funding from the National Rifle Association’s political action committee at some point in their political careers.
  • Of the Senate’s 100 members, 42 received contributions this past cycle and exactly half have received contributions at some point in their career. All told, 88 percent of Republicans now in Congress have received a contribution from the NRA at some point in their career, as have 11 percent of Democrats.
  • NRA’s scored a 0.83 percent return on investment for the $18.6 million spent by the group’s PAC and the group’s legislative arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, to influence last year’s presidential and congressional contests.


A review of federal lobbying disclosures by Sunlight shows that at least 29 people newly registered in 2013 on the issues of gun control or gun rights. Among gun control groups, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Mayors Against Illegal Guns hired new firms. Other companies hiring firms to lobby on gun issues include: the National Association of Police Organizations, Patton Boggs LLP for SST, ShotSpotter, Inc. and Monument Policy Group for Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc.

Check out this infographic on NRA vs. Brady Campaign lobbying spending since 1998.

TV Ads

Using Sunlight’s Political Ad Sleuth database, we found that at least five issue groups are actively airing gun-related TV ads in major media markets so far this year. Advertisers include:

  • Americans for Responsible Solutions (gun control) – Los Angeles and Washington, DC
  • Democracy for America (gun control) – Washington, DC
  • Mayors Against Illegal Guns (gun control) – Albuquerque, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, Greensboro, Harrisburg, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Washington, DC
  • (gun control) – Columbus, Washington, DC
  • National Association for Gun Rights (gun rights) – Norfolk

Check out this interactive map how all issue groups are airing TV ads in top 50 media markets since January.