- Rep. Chris Jacobs abandoned re-election after facing backlash for changing his mind about gun control.
- Following the Buffalo mass shooting, he said he would support an assault weapons ban if it came to the floor.
- “I think we have a real problem in the party – both parties – right now,” he said, referencing “orthodoxy” on issues like guns.
Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs of New York — who abandoned an otherwise safe re-election campaign after he came out in support of greater restrictions on guns — is warning about the effects of political polarization on American democracy.
“I think we have a real problem in the party – both parties – right now,” Jacobs told Politico. “If you’re not stuck to that orthodoxy in either party, you can’t do it. And I just don’t think that’s good for the functioning of our democracy.”
In the wake of a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo motivated by white supremacy, Jacobs said at a press conference that he would vote for an assault weapons ban.
“I want to be completely transparent on where I am in Congress,” he said. “If an assault weapons ban bill came to the floor that would ban something like an AR-15, I would vote for it.”
—Ryan Whalen (@RyanWhalenCT) May 27, 2022
Following both the Buffalo shooting and a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead, House Democrats introduced a slew of new gun control measures, though they did not include an assault weapons ban. Most House Republicans voted against the measures after party leadership sent a memo to rank-and-file members that included talking points from the National Rifle Association opposing the reforms.
But Jacobs was one of five House Republicans who voted for a so-called “red flag” law that would allows courts to withhold gun purchases for individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others, and he was among ten Republicans who voted to raise the purchasing age for semi-automatic weapons from 18 to 21.
“I wanted to be honest. I could have walked through the primary, which I was going to win and not say anything, and then just said, ‘Oh, by the way, I’ve changed my position on this,'” Jacobs also told Politico.
But Jacobs instead opted not to run for re-election, saying he didn’t want to see a “negative” campaign over the issue.
“It would be an incredibly divisive election for both the Republican Party and the people of the 23rd District,” he said at a press conference announcing his decision. “The last thing we need is an incredibly negative half-truth filled media attack funded by millions of dollars of special interest money coming into our community around this issue of guns and gun violence and gun control.”
—Ryan Whalen (@RyanWhalenCT) June 3, 2022
That came after backlash from local Republicans over his comments on an assault weapons ban.
Donald Trump Jr. said that Jacobs “already caved to the gun-grabbers” by announcing his support for the measure. “He can’t resist getting a few glowing headlines from the mainstream media,” he said.
—Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 30, 2022
And Erie County Conservative Party Chair Ralph Lorigo told the New York Times that Jacobs “understood that this was potentially political suicide.”
“His heart is in a good place, but he’s wrong in his thinking as far as we are concerned,” said Lorigo. “This quick jump that all of the sudden it’s the gun that kills people as opposed to the person is certainly not 100 percent true.”