In her 2010 U.S. House campaign, Arizona Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick highlighted her “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. This year, Kirkpatrick is running to return to the House espousing a gun-control platform, favoring universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. She disavows her longstanding position as a “proud gun owner,” saying she gave away the hunting rifles inherited from her father, reports the Wall Street Journal. Democrats running for Congress are pushing a muscular gun-control agenda that represents a wholesale repositioning on the hot-button issue. Gun control has become a party litmus test from which few dissent, alongside abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
Six years ago, when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee advised candidates in rural districts to show themselves with guns in TV ads, the National Rifle Association contributed to 30 Democratic House candidates. This year, the NRA is backing just three. The House Democrats’ campaign arm counts 63 candidates on its “Red to Blue” list of promising challengers trying to flip GOP House seats. Of them, 62 support expanded background checks for gun purchases. Only Richard Ojeda, who is running for a West Virginia seat Donald Trump carried by 50 points, opposes them. The shift has been propelled by new money and organization, as well as an energy among Democratic activists that has pushed candidates into altering their positions. The realignment is part of Democrats’ broader shift to the left on a range of issues, accelerated by insurgent energy activated following Trump’s election. The political landscape is even more polarized than before. Candidates are with the NRA or with gun-control advocates, and the major parties’ bases don’t allow for much middle ground.