Conservative-leaning Real Clear Politics writes about the changing political landscape on guns heading into the 2018 midterm elections as the body count from recent mass shootings continues to grow–with no signs of solutions from Republicans in full control of the federal government:
Democrats have renewed their calls for tighter gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school last week, vowing to make it a campaign issue this year. Despite minimal success galvanizing voters around such measures in past elections, some advocates are hopeful it could be a more salient issue in this year’s midterms…
Jason Crow, an Amy veteran challenging Rep. Mike Coffman in a suburban Colorado district — which includes the site of the movie theater mass shooting in 2012 — issued a press release Thursday calling on Coffman to return donations from the NRA. Crow, who has been endorsed by the gun control group founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, said in an interview he wanted to give an aggressive response to the shooting.
“The fact that now we’ve had numerous mass shootings with a lot of people killed in this country in the past year and it’s becoming kind of normalized for folks is not okay,” Crow told RCP. He emphasized his support for expanded background checks, banning military-style assault weapons, and closing gun show loopholes. “What I’m seeing is a more continuous conversation about it. People are talking about it all the time. It’s a concern everywhere I go, every place in the district I go.”
The July 2012 shooting at the Century Theater in Aurora became a pivotal moment for gun politics in Colorado. Combined with other close-to-home shootings like the Columbine massacre in 1999 as well as contemporary events like the Newtown shooting in December of 2012, the Aurora shooting catalyzed action in response that made Colorado a leader on gun safety policy, especially in the gun-friendly West.
The Aurora shooting may also have played a role in Coffman’s surprisingly narrow victory in 2012, keeping ahead of his underdog Democratic opponent by fewer than three points in what has proven to be Coffman’s narrowest win since his election to Congress. Coffman holds an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, and has never once responded to gun violence in his district with anything other than NRA-approved talking points.
That includes today:
Tyler Sandberg, Coffman’s campaign manager, responded that Crow was looking to “score political points over a tragedy.”
“Mike is heartbroken over what happened in Florida and believes this country needs to get laser-focused on mental health reform,” Sandberg said.
“Laser-focused on mental health reform.” Presumably he’s not referring to his vote for legislation to roll back background checks for mental health which President Trump signed into law almost a year ago, because that’s the opposite. And it couldn’t be for Coffman’s proposal last year to roll back federal funding for Medicaid, right?
Coffman was adamant that the states would have to bear more of a responsibility in the expanding Medicaid budget.
“It will put more pressure on the states,” said Coffman, explaining that changes must be made to replace an “inefficient program without good outcomes.”
His proposal also contains a mandatory work requirement that would force people enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program to be working, actively seeking a job, or enrolled in a job training program.
Considering that Medicaid covers 26% of Americans with serious mental illness, it’s very difficult to call this proposal “laser-focused on mental health reform.”
In fact, it’s the opposite.
“Focusing on mental health” in the aftermath of gun violence is a common refrain for politicians in the thrall of the NRA–but as we’ve seen in Colorado when legislation is introduced pertaining to civil commitment or mental health gun surrenders, their lip service never quite makes it into actual legislation. In terms of Colorado’s most perennially vulnerable Republican congressman, there is a good argument that he has been especially vulnerable on guns since July of 2012. For a variety of reasons, it simply hasn’t caught up with him.
But that doesn’t mean it never will. And 2018 is shaping up to challenge a lot of assumptions.