Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt three and a half years ago, has become a gun control advocate — which is turning off several Democrats running for re-election this year.
Four candidates for Senate across the nation have received the support of Giffords' gun control group, but with the issue a touchy one, they are trying to distance themselves from Giffords herself, The Washington Times reports.
Sens. Mark Udall (Colorado), Mary L. Landrieu (Louisiana ), and Kay R. Hagan (North Carolina), along with Rep. Bruce L. Braley, who is campaigning for an open Senate seat in Iowa, all pledged their support of the Second Amendment after Giffords' group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, said it would stand behind them for the November midterm elections. And even though Giffords' story is a heartwarming one, she has become synonymous with gun control — a subject that is very personal to many Americans, and one that can make or break a campaign in parts of the U.S. that are firearm-heavy.
With Republicans hoping to take control of the Senate this fall, Democrats need every vote they can get — even if that means standing down on certain issues.
"Democrats are doing everything they can to stay away from it," said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster and political analyst, the Times reports. "To the extent that any advertising from the gun control forces got out there, I think Udall would be very nervous that there’s more downside risk than upside."
Jill Hanauer, the president of a Democratic political consulting firm, told the Times that Giffords may actually help Democrats running for office in states where firearms are prevalent. Giffords, after all, is a gun owner.
"She's a Westerner. She’s a gun owner. She understands Western issues," Hanauer said. "America is having a long-awaited conversation about gun safety."
One activist in Giffords' organization, who declined to be named in the Times story, said the group is aware of the effect Giffords can have on a campaign.
"It's something we think about a lot," he said.
The gun control debate has been stoked in recent years because of several mass shootings in schools, malls, movie theaters, and other public places. In states out west and down south, where gun owners represent many of the voters, it is a slippery issue.
"Some of these races look like they could be so close that just about anything could matter," political science professor Christopher Mann told the Times. "If the debate becomes about gun control, that is not where Mary Landrieu wants the debate to be about. Mary Landrieu wants a very different debate. If she is trying to win a Senate race talking about gun control, she’s losing."
Giffords was holding an event outside a grocery store in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011 when a gunmen ran into the crowd and began firing.
Nineteen people were hit, six of whom were killed. Giffords was shot in the head and nearly died — her intern is credited with saving her life because he administered first aid to her immediately after she was shot.
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