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Investigation: Campaign Contributions and Lobbying Way Up on Both Sides of Gun Debate

The national debate over gun control is heating up again following three mass shootings over the last 10 days in California, Texas and Ohio. But advocates on both sides have been fighting for their cause for decades, and the price tag within the political arena keeps going up.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit reviewed campaign finance and lobbying data for both California and the nation and found the money behind these issues is at its highest point in years.

During last year’s federal election, more than $20 million was spent collectively by gun rights and gun control groups, according to a database maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. The lion’s share was from gun rights groups: more than $12 million. Still, both sides spent more last year than they have in the previous five.

NBC Bay Area’s Investigative Unit also found the three states where elected officials received the most political contributions from gun rights groups were the same three states that recently experienced mass shootings: California, Texas and Ohio.

Sam Paredes, Executive Director of Gun Owners of California, a political action committee that has spent $1 million challenging gun control in the state legislature since 2005, says lobbying, campaign contributions and judicial approaches are the means to an end.

“Know why do we lobby so hard? Why do we not let down?” Paredes asks. “It’s because we truly believe that what we do saves lives. A large, vast number of lives.”

Paredes said that while he and his organization’s members view the recent mass shootings as tragedies, they ultimately consider the more important issue to be crime prevention as opposed to gun control.

“More laws, more regulations, more rules, will do nothing to prevent mass shootings,” he said. “That’s what we have got to get into our head.”

Mattie Scott disagrees, and says that lives are at stake. Her 24-year-old son was shot and killed in San Francisco’s Western Addition neighborhood. Twenty years later, she’s the Brady United California State President, an organization that has been advocating for more gun control since 1975.

“I don’t want another mother to feel what I feel,” said Scott. “We shouldn’t be burying our children. It’s not normal.”

Scott says the influence of campaign contributions in politics has really been a wakeup call for both the American public and gun control organizations like Brady United.

“Together, we’re going to win this fight against gun violence,” Scott said. “We don’t care how much money you pour into it.”

Data from the Federal Elections Commission shows that while contributions from gun rights groups went up by 20 percent last year, the money contributed by gun control groups jumped more than 1,000 percent.

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