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The killing of nineteen children and two teachers during a horrific mass shooting in a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school and the murder of 10 members of the Black community in Buffalo, New York, nearly two weeks ago has thrust gun control into the national spotlight once again.
If Democrats have their way, the issue will be front and center on the campaign trail as well.
In the three days since the latest mass shooting, President Biden and numerous Democrats in Congress have again pushed for passage of stricter gun measures Republicans have repeatedly blocked.
And Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) press secretary Chris Taylor charged in a statement to Fox News that “extremist MAGA Republicans have fully cowered to the gun lobby to cling to power. And our children, seniors and communities are being slaughtered as a consequence.
“We’re going to remind voters that we’ll keep fighting to pass common-sense solutions. Republicans won’t,” Taylor said.
People walk past signs in the hallways outside the exhibit halls at the NRA Annual Meeting at the George R. Brown Convention Center Thursday, May 26, in Houston. (AP/Michael Wyke)
It was a similar message from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Senate Democrats’ re-election arm.
Democratic Party officials, facing historical headwinds and a difficult political climate with issues like record inflation, border security and crime top of mind with voters, pledged to spotlight gun control as they try to hold onto razor-thin House and Senate majorities in November’s midterm elections.
DNC deputy communications director Daniel Wessel accused Republicans of “once again choosing the gun lobby over our kids” and vowed that “this is the contrast we’ll be showing voters every day from now until Election Day.”
Longtime Republican consultant Colin Reed noted that until the recent news that the conservative majority on the Supreme Court next month is likely to overturn the near half-century-old Roe v. Wade landmark abortion ruling, the political climate greatly favored the GOP.
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., speaks during a press conference following the weekly Democratic caucus policy luncheon Feb. 8, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Reed said though that “between the Supreme Court memo and the tragic shootings, all of a sudden — as is often the case in politics — circumstances shifted on a dime, and the issue of gun control is certainly front and center and is certainly one I believe that Democrats will use to shift the national conversation.”
But Reed argued that the issue of “gun control is less about Republican and Democrat as it is about rural versus urban. … There’s going to be Republicans in blue or purple states that are going to feel political pressure to be for something on gun safety, and, meanwhile, there’s going to be rural Democrats less interested in pursuing.”
Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, whose wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was severely injured in a mass shooting in 2011, highlighted that “there are common-sense reforms we can pass to reduce gun violence that align with our rights and traditions and are supported by Americans across the political spectrum.”
Kelly, who faces a difficult re-election this year in a crucial swing state, said, “The best thing Washington can do right now is take these steps to make our communities safer. After witnessing yet another tragedy, Arizonans are right to expect action from Washington. They should demand it, I know I will.”
A mourner places her hand on a memorial for a victim of Tuesday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in City of Uvalde Town Square May 26, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia of Texas pointed to public opinion polling and stressed that “the majority of Americans want background checks and rules that will protect them and their communities.”
“I ask my Republican colleagues gathered in Houston” Friday for an annual National Rifle Association convention, “what will it take for you to start putting the lives of our children ahead of the NRA’s money?” Garcia said during a Democratic National Committee-organized call with reporters.
Republicans, who often use gun-rights messaging to make inroads with their base, quickly voiced concerns that Democrats were trying to politicize a tragedy.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, speaking at an event in New Hampshire to support fellow Republicans, argued Thursday that, “not surprisingly, President Biden and the Democrats have already sought to politicize this national tragedy. Predictable calls for gun control.
“Guns are not responsible for these heinous crimes. The gunmen who committed these murderous acts are responsible for these heinous crimes,” Pence added. “Eroding the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens is not the answer.”
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, whom Democrats view as vulnerable as he runs for re-election this year, said in an interview on Fox Business’ “Cavuto Coast to Coast” that gun violence “is a society–wide problem, a society-wide sickness, that is not going to be solved by some additional gun laws in Washington, D.C.”
Asked about stiffer background checks by Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto, Johnson claimed that “no matter what you do, people fall through the cracks … These are difficult issues … Asimple new gun law … is not going to solve it.”
Another campaign veteran, Democratic strategist Chris Moyer, criticized Republicans.
“I wish this were an issue that would move voters to take action against Republican-elected officials and candidates who oppose common-sense gun violence prevention measures that the majority of voters back,” Moyer said.
“There should be consequences for not supporting things that will help keep kids safe in school. But I think we’ve seen over and over again that is not how this plays out, unfortunately.”