Republicans are worried that the political implications of the debate on guns matter most with a small but pivotal crop of candidates who are deeply vulnerable: moderate Republicans from suburbia, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Voters in suburban enclaves have been severely shaken by last month’s deadly mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fl., and they are pressing candidates from some of the most competitive districts to act, or risk backlash as the 2018 midterms cycle intensifies. These Republicans know that the issue is not going away even as the GOP-held Senate declines to turn to gun legislation and rank-and-file Republicans express resistance to sweeping new gun laws.
“My sense is, there’s a heightened awareness, and it’s going to be sustained,” said Rep. Ryan Costello, a Republican who represents a suburban Philadelphia district that backed Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats need to win 24 districts to take back the House of Representatives. There are 23 Republican-held seats, many of them moderate and suburban, that Clinton won last cycle. Those districts are home to center-right voters who typically back Republicans and appreciate the GOP-led tax reform measure, but don’t always have the same deep cultural affinity for hunting and owning guns as do Republican voters from rural areas. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican considering a 2020 presidential bid, has made proposals to curb gun violence, including tighter background check enforcement and supporting any federally approved ban on bump stocks, devices that allow guns to fire more rapidly. Other Republican governors have been willing to push gun control measures, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a likely Senate candidate, who supports raising the age for firearm purchases from 18 to 21.