Signs of Progress in the Fight to Save Lives

As the brave student activists, parents, and teachers from Parkland, FL continue to capture the nation’s attention with their passionate cries for gun safety reform, we’re also beginning to see clear signs of progress emerge across the country.

Here are few you may have missed:

NRA-backed legislators are realizing that gun safety will be a defining issue this year:

  • Boos punctuate town hall on guns held by Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman: In a district that voted for Democrats Barack Obama in 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, Coffman has been a perennial political target for Democrats. He is in his fifth term, but Democrats haven’t made gun control a centerpiece of their campaigns for votes. The electorate is evenly split between Democrats, Republicans and those unaffiliated. That could change this year. The raw emotions at Coffman’s town hall shows how guns have become a volatile issue in an already hyper-charged midterm election, stoking passions that will be difficult for Democrats to contain, and difficult for embattled Republicans like Coffman to defend against.
  • AR-15 auction removed from fundraiser with McMorris Rodgers: Organizers of a fundraiser featuring Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) reversed course and pulled their plan to auction off an AR-15 rifle — the style of weapon used to kill 17 in last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida — shortly after a POLITICO report on the event on Tuesday.

GOP Senators announce support for common sense gun safety measures

  • After Florida school shooting, Pat Toomey to press background check bill again: Amid another national wave of grief and outrage in response to a mass shooting, Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) plans to introduce a new version of his bill to expand background checks for gun purchases. Philadelphia-area  representatives joined the call for tightening background checks. “While not a popular opinion with some Second Amendment groups, I strongly believe that background checks are worthless unless they cover every gun purchase. We can and must do more,” Rep. Tom MacArthur (R., N.J.) said Wednesday. Rep. Ryan Costello (R., Pa.) would also support expansion, his office said, and fellow suburban Republican Reps. Pat Meehan and Brian Fitzpatrick have cosponsored a House bill to do so.
  • Flake backs bill increasing age for rifle purchases: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday that he supports increasing the minimum age to buy a rifle and is working on legislation with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) after last week’s Florida school shooting.
  • Rubio reconsidered his positions on a number of gun reform measures during the CNN Town Hall with Stoneman Douglas High school students on Feb 21. He declaring that he supports raising the age to buy rifles, banning bump stocks and passing ERPO laws. He also said he would reconsider his position on the size of gun magazines and publicly opposed President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers.

In swing districts, NRA $ is becoming toxic:

  • The myth of the invincible NRA: Rep. Barbara Comstock, who represents a district in the northern Virginia suburbs right outside D.C. that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 by 10 points, is one of the most vulnerable Republicans up for re-election this year. If there’s anything keeping Comstock in office it’s the impression that she’s a moderate… Yet according to an analysis by The New York Times, Comstock has been the beneficiary of $137,232 in NRA assistance… Given that the NRA has become an increasingly radical organization that often takes positions even its own members disagree with… perhaps the enormous support Comstock has gotten from the group might be an issue Democrats could use against her, both to motivate their own voters and to convince the undecided that she isn’t the moderate she claims to be. If they do — and if that gets repeated in swing district after swing district — before long the idea that it’s suicide for a politician to take on the NRA could begin to crumble.

  • Find Out Via Text If Your Representatives Have Received Money From NRA: In a matter of seconds after texting NRA to 50409, you can find out who your state’s two U.S. senators are, your representative in the U.S. House and your state’s governor and how much money they have received from the NRA, plus how much the NRA has donated to their opposition.

  • N.J. Republican just did a big switch on guns after Florida shooting: Rep. Tom MacArthur, who had a 93 percent favorable rating from the National Rifle Association, has broken with the powerful gun rights lobby and endorsed background checks for all gun purchases in the wake of the Florida high school shooting that claimed 17 lives. MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., had opposed the proposal in the past, receiving a 0 percent rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, according to Project Vote Smart, which tracks lawmakers’ positions on key issues. “Background checks are worthless, unless they cover every gun purchase,” MacArthur said Wednesday.

Democrats in swing states aren’t shy about rallying for gun safety measures:

  • Gun Politics Stir Up Florida Midterm RacesAs Florida hosts competitive contests for governor, U.S. Senate and multiple congressional seats, Democratic candidates for these offices are united in calling for a ban on assault weapons and enhancing other gun-control policies, a signal of where their base is on the issue even in a purple state. Despite the state’s conservative history on gun laws, Democrats see little liability in running on the issue statewide. While Trump won Florida in 2016, he carried it by just over one percentage point. And Scott won his gubernatorial re-election by a single point in 2014, which was considered a banner year for Republicans. And last week, Democrats flipped a state House seat in a Sarasota district that Trump had won overwhelmingly, indicating that opportunities exist for Democrats in suburban areas. “If you add this gun control issue to so many of the other things that have incensed and incentivized Democrats and independent voters around the country, this could make a difference,” said veteran Florida Republican strategist Mac Stipanovich. “If anything close to this intensity and commitment continues, it could be very significant.”

  • Ohio Governor’s Race Turns to Gun Control, Assault Weapons DebateThe debate about gun control that was reignited by last week’s tragedy at Parkland High School is playing out in Ohio’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, where Dennis Kucinich is calling out his opponent Richard Cordray for his track record as a pro-gun advocate. Kucinich, considered the most progressive candidate in the race, is calling for Ohio to ban assault weapons. “We are going to change the politics of the state on this single issue,” he said at a press conference in mid-February.

States are taking things into their own hands: 

  • Govs Of N.Y., N.J., Conn., R.I. Form ‘States For Gun Safety’ CoalitionThe governors of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island are forming a coalition of like-minded states on gun control, hoping to make progress where they see the federal government has faltered. The governors said the cross-state task force will trace and intercept illegal guns, step upintelligence and information sharing among the states and create a regional gun violence research consortium. They’ll be urging others to join the coalition at this weekend’s National Governors Association meeting.
  • OHIO – Two Ohio senators propose statewide ban on assault weapons: In the wake of recent deadly mass shootings, Sens. Michael Skindell and Charleta Tavares introduced legislation yesterday making it a fifth-degree felony to possess or acquire a firearm considered an “assault weapon.” This effort follows comments Monday by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich supporting limits of the ability to sell weapons often used in mass killings, such as the AR-15 rifle.
  • PENNSYLVANIA – Pennsylvania lawmakers unveil bills aimed at curbing mass shootings: Six days after a gunman murdered 17 students and adults at a Florida school, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced 11 bills aimed at tightening access to assault-style weapons, boosting student protection and intervening in potentially dangerous mental health cases.
  • NEW JERSEY – Murphy assures parents and vows stricter N.J. gun control after Florida school shooting: Around the same time students who survived the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida began a 400-mile journey to the state’s capital to push for gun reform Tuesday, Gov. Phil Murphy promised additional action in New Jersey… Murphy has a willing partner with the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature, which has already begun passing legislation that would tighten the state’s gun rules.
  • ILLINOIS – Illinois state Rep. Marty Moylan (D) introduced a bill two days after the Florida shooting to ban the manufacture, sale, purchase, and possession of “rate of fire enhancements,” a category of devices and accessories that includes bump stocks. Moylan and state Sen. Julie Morrison (D) have also doubled down on their calls to move forward gun control bills introduced before the Parkland shooting, including one to ban assault weapons and one to ban unregistered, often home-manufactured weapons known as “ghost guns.”

Attempts to loosen gun laws are being shot down

  • Kansas lawmakers cancel debate on NRA-backed gun safety bill: Kansas legislators canceled debate Thursday on allowing elementary schools to offer a National Rifle Association-backed firearms safety course, responding to concerns such a step would be inappropriate the week after the mass shooting at a Florida high school.

  • As Colorado Republicans aim to loosen state gun laws, Democrats shoot efforts downStudents across the country are calling for stricter gun laws following the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida last week. But here in Colorado, Republican lawmakers moved forward with three bills that would loosen gun restrictions. House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who was a sophomore at Columbine High School in 1999, the year of the deadly shooting, again proposed a bill to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns inside K-12 schools. Currently, the law says a gun can be brought onto school property but has to remain in a vehicle. But the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs committee voted 6-3 against this proposal along party lines Wednesday night. The committee also voted down two other bills to loosen gun laws. A gun bill introduced this year by a Democrat, a ban on bump stocks used to make semiautomatic rifles fire faster, is expected to fail in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Taken together, these clips show that the politics of guns continues to shift as inaction becomes increasingly unacceptable to the vast majority of Americans.