Vulnerable lawmakers silently respond to loud gun debate
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NEW YORK – They gathered around the White House conference table last week, with lawmakers from California, Connecticut, Texas and Florida eager to share their state’s painful experience of gun violence .
A key state was not represented. No one from Nevada, the scene of the deadliest shootout in modern U.S. history just five months ago, attended the televised discussion with the president.
But in gun control policy, even those who say the least have considerable influence.
Despite a demand for action over the Florida school shooting, a powerful group of vulnerable lawmakers – Republicans and Democrats – have pointedly avoided the national gun conversation.
They often choose strategic silence over opposing staunch National Rifle Association supporters on the right or the growing movement of passionate gun control advocates from the left to the left.
The office of Senior Nevada Senator, Republican Dean Heller, declined to comment on why he had not attended the White House meeting.
Heller, who faces an uphill battle for re-election, also avoided the spotlight in the following days, declining to give details of his positions on gun law.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on Heller’s invitation to the event.
Democratic state senator Catherine Cortez Masto and her three Democratic representatives were also absent.
Heller spokeswoman Megan Taylor declined to say whether the senator supports universal background checks, raising the age for gun purchases to 21, or provisions to ban magazines from large capacity and assault rifles, all ideas launched by lawmakers or President Donald Trump in recent days.
“He looks forward to continuing discussions with his colleagues as Congress explores ways to improve compliance with the law and keep our communities safe,” Taylor said.
Heller signed a law known as “Fix NICS,” a modest measure supported by the NRA and intended to encourage greater participation in the national instant criminal background check system.
It was one of the few gun bills to find bipartisan support and seemed poised to move forward, only to be sidelined.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky who has said little about the gun debate in recent days, said Thursday that no gun laws would be heard in the coming week .
Without the support of this silent majority, there is little chance that important gun control legislation will become federal law, regardless of the outcry from high school students and others pushing for it. ‘action.
Deadlock infuriates Ryan Works, a 40-year-old father of two, who hid under a table at an October concert in Las Vegas as a gunman killed 58 and injured more than 800 .
Republican, Works sent a moving message to Heller and elected officials from both parties who are reluctant to tackle gun violence.
“Step up and do something,” he said in an interview, almost screaming as he described buying bulletproof backpacks for his 5 and 8 year old children. “Show us that you care and that you will protect us.”
Heller’s muffled response at an extraordinary moment highlights the weight of his political situation.
Running for re-election in a state lost by Trump, he must win a significant number of independents and moderate Democrats in the November general election to win a second term.
But first, he must survive a main challenge from a Tory brand in a state where GOP primary voters value gun rights above almost everything.
The challenge is easy to see in recent polls. Two in three adults in the United States want tougher gun laws, CBS found in a poll conducted a week after the February 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida.
But among Republicans, 54% want gun laws left out or made less stringent.
This is probably why the politically most vulnerable elected officials kept their heads down, leaving the heavy lifting to elected officials facing fewer political risks this fall.
In the Senate this week, Blue State Senators such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey gave fiery speeches on gun violence.
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey, a swing state Republican whose current term ends in 2022, has reappeared as the face of the push for a universal background check.
Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who is retiring at the end of this year, has partnered with California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein on legislation to move the gun-buying age to shoulder at 21 years old.
Democrats running in Republican-leaning states this fall were much less visible.
North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, both Democrats running for re-election in the states Trump has won with flying colors, have said nothing about gun violence in the Senate in recent years. days, but have made statements in honor of recently deceased voters. .
Heitkamp supports the “Fix NICS” plan and has co-sponsored a bill that would prevent people on the terrorist watch list from buying weapons, his spokesperson said.
The senator previously objected to so-called bump stocks, which the Las Vegas shooter used to increase the firing speed of his semi-automatic rifle.
But the spokeswoman did not say whether she would support universal background checks, higher age limits, or provisions to ban high-capacity magazines and assault rifles.
In a statement, Heitkamp denounced the “horrific mass shootings” and called for “a bipartisan conversation in Congress on long-term solutions to gun violence”.
Likewise, Donnelly, who previously voted for universal background checks and supports “Fix NICS,” said little more about the issue when pressed for details.
“I think Congress should take action to reduce gun violence while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens,” he said in a statement.
At the White House meeting, the most vulnerable class of the Democratic Party in 2018 were represented only by Senator Joe Manchin, a former governor of West Virginia, who encouraged the president to help promote the so-called plan Toomey-Manchin for the Universal Background Check.
Trump appeared to adopt the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting, but he hasn’t mentioned it since a Thursday night meeting with the NRA, which opposes the plan.
Don’t expect Heller to mention it either.
If he wins his primary, he will likely face Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who doesn’t shy away from supporting virtually every gun control measure on the table. She was quick to note Heller’s low profile in the debate.
“His silence speaks volumes,” Rosen said. “How can you have a tragedy in your own state, like the one we experienced here, without it changing you forever, without talking and not responding to these families?”
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