A few NRA-favored Republicans in tight races are budging on gun-law reform, but not by much

A few NRA-favored Republicans in tight races are budging on gun-law reform, but not by much

In a review of the public statements of 31 GOP incumbents, Reuters reporters have found seven of the 11 Republicans in races rated “toss-ups” or leaning toward their opponent have changed their positions away from the standard intransigence of their party on tightening gun laws. Six have “grades” of “A” and one a B+ from the National Rifle Association. All have received thousands of dollars in direct campaign contributions or spending on their behalf from the gun lobby.

The seven: Steve Knight, CA-25th Congressional District; Dana Rohrabacher, CA-48th CD; Carlos Curbelo, FL-26th CD; Jeff Fortenberry, NE-1st CD; Don Bacon, NE-2nd CD; John Faso, NY-19th CD; Ryan Costello, PA-6th CD.

GOP incumbents in seven "safe Republican” districts contiguous to those 11 toss-up districts haven’t changed their stance on gun laws, which is, essentially, nothing tougher than now. In 13 other races that are considered close but not toss-ups, the reporters found only three Republicans who have made public statements indicating they might be open to additional controls.

The NRA has made $1.5 million in direct donations to or expenditure for the 18 Republican lawmakers in the competitive and safe seats. Of the total, the 11 Republicans who have chosen to stick to their guns by keeping to their longstanding opposition to tightening the laws received 85 percent of that money, according to Reuters.

While these 10 incumbents have moved slightly in the direction of stricter laws, what most of them support is more like a mild tweaking than a serious tightening. Only Carlos Curbelo, Ryan Costello, and Dana Rohrabacher have said they might back changes that would have a significant impact.

Given the stubborn unwillingness of most Republicans in the past to move at all on gun-law reform, these shifts would seem to represent progress. What’s said on the campaign trail to attract independents and conservative Democrats, however, often turns to vapor once the votes are counted. Julia Harte and Jason Lange report:

They are doing it amid a public outcry over repeated mass shootings that has been driven in part by student activists who have confronted lawmakers over legislative inaction on the issue.

In less competitive races, most Republican candidates are still holding to the party position on guns. Most Republican lawmakers were largely silent last week when President Trump surprised his party with his call for new limits on gun ownership, including a directive to ban so-called bump stocks that make semi-automatic rifles fire more quickly. [...]

Because concern in the United States over mass shootings is high, adopting more restrictive views on gun policy could help candidates in tight races, said Doug Heye, another Republican strategist. But Republican lawmakers also want to avoid alienating gun rights supporters, said [Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist at FP1 Strategies].