New campaign finance data reveals the extent to which efforts to pass meaningful gun control legislation is hamstrung by the power of pro-gun groups.
Analyzing information from the Center for Responsive Politics, the nonpartisan watchdog group MapLight reported Thursday that representatives in the House who refuse to support a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and other assault-style firearms, receive about 130 times more money in campaign donations from pro-gun groups than those who back such regulations.
"It's hard to imagine Congress being so out of step with the American public on gun measures if lawmakers were less focused on the campaign money for their reelection."—Alec Saslow, MapLight
Only two of the 172 co-sponsors of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018 (H.R. 5087) received donations from pro-gun groups during the 2016 election cycle, with Reps. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.), who have previously backed pro-gun legislation, gathering an average of $64 in contributions.
House members who declined to support the legislation received an average of $8,671 from pro-gun groups. Six of the 21 Democrats who haven't yet signed on as co-sponsors received at least $2,500 from gun groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA).
"This kind of disparity is a reminder that our broken campaign finance system has an outsized impact on both our elections and the legislative process," said Alec Saslow, media communications director, in an email to Common Dreams. "It's hard to imagine Congress being so out of step with the American public on gun measures if lawmakers were less focused on the campaign money for their reelection."
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The report comes as Americans show increased support for an assault weapons ban in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. last month, with 68 percent of people surveyed by Politico saying they back a ban.
While enthusiasm for bold action is on the rise among the public, the financial power of pro-gun groups continues to keep legislators from supporting wide-reaching legislation to keep guns like the AR-15, which was used in Parkland and in several other mass shootings in recent years, out of the hands of civilians.
While H.R. 5087 has not been co-sponsored by a single Republican, GOP lawmakers have largely attempted to shift the national focus away from controls on civilian gun ownership after the deaths of 17 people in Parkland, with the Florida Legislature passing a bill Wednesday that would allow school districts to arm teachers, and President Donald Trump meeting with video game industry representatives on Thursday to discuss the widely debunked theory that violent video games have contributed to school shootings.
The president's meeting comes a week after an impromptu late-night sit-down with the NRA, during which he appeared to reverse his earlier statements in support of stricter gun control measures.