Newton activist launches super PAC to take on the NRA

The headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia.
The headquarters of the National Rifle Association in Fairfax, Virginia.EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

A Newton real estate developer and activist, frustrated by congressional inaction on gun control, said Friday that he is launching a super PAC, called Don’t Be a Target, that will seek to influence close congressional races this fall.

The super PAC, which will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign and a series of 40 concerts across the country, will include a television ad campaign focused on US Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who voted against expanded background checks and is being challenged by Governor Maggie Hassan, a Democrat who supports tighter gun laws.

The PAC is being spearheaded by John Rosenthal, a developer and founder of Stop Handgun Violence, who is perhaps best known for the provocative 250-foot-long billboards promoting gun control that he plastered along the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park for two decades.


Rosenthal said he hopes the PAC will counteract the National Rifle Association’s vaunted political power.

Its launch comes amid rising anger from Democrats, who have staged a sit-in, a filibuster, and a walk-out in Congress to protest the lack of action on gun control after a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside a gay nightclub in Orlando, in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

“It’s become clear the only way to change the outcome is to fight back this November,” Rosenthal said. “It’s time to replace members of Congress who are beholden to the special interest gun lobby with lawmakers who put the lives of our children and ordinary citizens first.”

In addition to raising money on Kickstarter, Rosenthal said the PAC will receive a portion of the proceeds from The Concert Across America To End Gun Violence, a series of shows to be held in 40 cities across the country, including Boston, on Sept. 25, a date designated by Congress as the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.


Although still in flux, the lineup in New York is expected to include Roseanne Cash, Yo-Yo Ma, Grace Potter, and others.

Don Law, the Boston music impresario, is helping to organize the concerts and is also a founding member of the Don’t Be a Target PAC, Rosenthal said.

Others helping to orchestrate the PAC include Ben T. Clements, a former chief legal counsel to Governor Deval Patrick, and Mark E. Robinson, a former chief of staff to Governor William F. Weld, the former Republican turned Libertarian candidate for vice president, Rosenthal said.

Matthew O’Neil, a Democratic consultant and architect of Martin J. Walsh’s mayoral campaign, will advise the group on political strategy. Arnold Worldwide, the Boston ad agency, designed promotional materials for the campaign.

Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.