In its first major push in the shift from elections to policy, the Obama campaign's grassroots arm dispatched volunteers Friday to advocate for gun control.
Calling it a "Day of Action" advocates showed up at congressional offices nationwide to pressure GOP lawmakers to support universal background checks, a component of the White House's gun control plan with the best chance of passage.
One time Obama campaign neighborhood team leader, Gloria McVeigh organized around 40 people at U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent's Allentown office at noon with signs, prompting passing motorists to honk to show support. One large makeshift sign said, "They deserve a vote," which is a line Obama repeated in his State of the Union as he spoke about victims of gun violence.
"We feel like this is about people power. We have an opportunity to represent the silent majority. There is a vast majority of Americans willing to take a reasonable position on this," McVeigh said. "Charlie Dent is a politician, he represents his district, and we're trying to make sure he understands as a representative what we're asking him to do, which is to move on gun violence prevention plan."
Most Pennsylvanians - 89 percent - support closing the so-called gunshow loophole, according to this month's Morning Call/Muhlenberg College statewide survey. The loophole permits private firearms sellers not to run background checks on buyers.
Dent was not in his office when the activists were there, but reached by phone, he said "there is a consensus emerging on some enhancements on background checks." At eight townhalls he's held so far this year, he said most people voiced their opposition to stricter gun control, but were open to more background checks.
Dent also said he is "inclined to be supportive of" a bipartisan bill that imposes tougher penalties on "straw purchases" of firearms.
The pro-Obama group - now an advocacy nonprofit called Organizing for Action - also started an online ad campaign targeting about a dozen Republican lawmakers on the background check issue. The only Pennsylvanian is U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, R-6th district.
Originally, GOP U.S. Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, 8th district, and Patrick Meehan, 7th district, were also included in the campaign, but were removed when OFA discovered both of the Philly suburban Republicans had come out in support of stronger background checks.