Gun-control advocates see election as turning point in battle against NRA

 

By Kelly Cohen, Washington Examiner

The election of pro-gun-control lawmakers like Colorado’s Jason Crow in the House, which helped Democrats capture the majority during this month’s midterm elections, is being seen by those wanting to impose stronger gun restrictions as a pivotal political moment.

“The tide has been turning for some time now, with more and more Americans getting frustrated and saying enough with each mass shooting. We saw it in last year’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey when voters listed gun safety as a top priority, and we saw it again this year,” Max Samis, press secretary for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told the Washington Examiner.

An NBC News exit poll reported that 60 percent of voters last week favored stronger gun laws, including 42 percent of gun owners. This was regardless of party affiliation.

Furthermore, a new Pew Research Center analysis showed that more Americans now favor gun regulation (52 percent) over gun rights (44 percent) — a flip from 2016.

At least 15 House Republicans with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association were defeated by Democrats who all had an “F” rating from the gun advocacy group.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, who was defeated by Democrat Crow in Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, also has an “A” rating from the NRA.

During the campaign, a political action committee formed by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, who was wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, ran ads attacking Coffman as an “NRA-backed politician.” Giffords endorsed Crow, who campaigned on banning military-style assault weapons, expanding background checks for gun purchases, restricting high-capacity ammo magazines and “standing up to the gun lobby.”

“For years, Republican leaders have blocked any common-sense, bipartisan legislation to help prevent gun violence and this new Congress is a chance to change that. I intend to continue my push for immediate and bipartisan action, like expanding and strengthening background checks that will help save lives,” Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., told the Washington Examiner.

Thompson, who is chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, said that with a new Democratic majority Americans “will finally get the policies they have been demanding that will combat gun violence.”

Besides Crow, the newly elected House Democrats advocating gun control include Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, who defeated GOP incumbent John Culberson in Texas, and Angie Craig, who defeated GOP incumbent Jason Lewis in Minnesota.

Giffords’ gun control group Americans for Responsible Solutions spent more than $5.3 million to aid Democratic candidates this election cycle.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Coffman, Culberson, and Lewis were all hit with television ads from the group on their gun control voting records — a spend of more than $1 million. Gun control groups outspent gun rights groups during the 2018 midterms, a total flip from the 2016 presidential election.

The NRA spent just $730,000 on ads and media to aid its preferred candidates this year, according to Open Secrets. By contrast, gun control groups spent more than $9.7 million.

“I do think the NRA had a bad year, not just around the country,” Steven Schale, a Democratic strategist, told the Washington Examiner.

Schale pointed to Florida and legislation signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in March that puts sweeping school safety and gun access changes into effect. The NRA has since sued over it. None of the Florida legislators who the NRA opposed for voting for the legislation lost in 2018, Schale said.

“I don’t believe this means these fights are going away, but it does mean that gun safety advocates are in a far better place to drive conversations with policy makers who previously were concerned about retribution from the NRA,” he said.

Jennifer Baker, NRA spokeswoman, rejected the notion that the tide was turning toward gun control.

“Despite record spending by anti-gun billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, the gun control lobby once again failed to win elections on the issue of gun control,” she said.

“Over 80 percent of NRA-endorsed candidates won,” she added. “And NRA efforts in pivotal U.S. senate races were key to growing the pro-Second Amendment majority in the Senate, which will ensure the confirmation of federal judicial appointees who respect the Second Amendment and will affirm our basic right to self-defense.”

In one of the most emotional victories for gun control advocates, Democrat Lucy McBath defeated Republican Rep. Karen Handel in the seat once held by Newt Gingrich. McBath’s son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in November 2012 in Florida following an argument over loud music.

She campaigned heavily on gun control measures.

“Absolutely nothing — no politician & no special interest — is more powerful than a mother on a mission,” she said in a tweet after her victory.

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