Giffords group takes aim at key U.S. Senate races in new push for gun
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[July 07, 2020]
By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - The gun safety group Giffords
will launch a nationwide effort next week aimed at boosting Democratic
candidates in key U.S. Senate races who support universal background
checks for firearms purchases.
With Democrats' chances of flipping the Senate improving as Republican
President Donald Trump's poll numbers slide ahead of the Nov. 3
election, the group said background checks were a wedge issue that could
win support from critical voting blocs in close races and beyond.
"This issue helps Democrats in every single state and every single
congressional district," Senator Chris Murphy said in an interview,
citing opinion polls that show background checks are popular even among
Murphy, a leading voice on gun violence since the 2012 Sandy Hook school
massacre in his home state of Connecticut, will kick off the group's
"tour" on July 14 with former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, who
founded the group after she nearly died in an assassination attempt in
Arizona in 2011.
Giffords will then host virtual events with Democratic Senate candidates
in several battleground states this summer, including Michigan, North
Carolina and Colorado.
"The road to passing lifesaving gun safety legislation goes through the
Senate," she said in a statement about the group's effort, which will be
announced on Tuesday.
Giffords' husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is running for the Senate in
Arizona as a Democrat in one of the highest-profile 2020 races, but the
group said previously it would not engage in that contest.
DEMOCRATS EMBRACE ISSUE
The issue of gun control, once seen as a political third rail for
Democrats, has largely been turned on its head. Many Democratic
congressional candidates in 2018 attacked Republican opponents for
bowing to the gun lobby.
During this year's Democratic presidential nominating race, every
candidate, including presumptive nominee Joe Biden, called for universal
background checks and other restrictions.
[to top of second column]
Shooting survivor and U.S. former Representative Gabby Giffords
(D-AZ) (R) embraces student activist Audrey Wright, of Chicago,
during in a news conference about proposed gun background check
legislation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 26, 2019.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo
But amid the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent economic
crisis, it remains to be seen whether gun violence is salient enough
in 2020 to drive voters to the polls.
A Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by Giffords in late June
found 61% of respondents would be more likely to support a candidate
who favors background checks, while only 10% would be less likely.
Polls have shown that suburban women who helped drive Democratic
gains in 2018 and have deserted Trump in droves are particularly
motivated by gun violence, and young voters also cite gun safety as
a major priority, said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords.
The Giffords group's focus on the Senate comes after the
Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill in
February 2019 closing loopholes in the background checks law.
Trump and Senate Republicans have declined to take up the
legislation, even after mass shootings last summer reignited a
national debate over the widespread availability of firearms in the
Opponents of expanding background checks argue that it would do
little to prevent criminals from obtaining guns and warn that the
data collected could be used as a firearms registry to impose more
stringent limits in the future.
Murphy said a number of Republican Senate colleagues had privately
told him they would vote for a universal background checks bill,
including some who opposed similar legislation introduced after the
Sandy Hook shooting. But he said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
would not allow a vote unless there was an assurance that Trump
would support it.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter
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