The National Rifle Association is under fire for running an ad with the headline “Target Practice” next to a photo House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords - who was shot in the head.
Christine Pelosi, Nancy's daughter, tweeted on Saturday, "The NRA published a magazine headline “target practice” with a photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Rep Gabby Giffords. We must condemn this intentional, outrageous criminal incitement. We cannot allow this hate speech to stop common sense gun violence prevention."
Democratic lawmakers are pushing stricter gun laws in statehouses across the country, emboldened by sweeping electoral victories in 2018 and confident that public opinion is on their side over a year after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Last year's wins handed Democrats control of the governorship and legislature in several more states, including New Mexico, New York, Colorado, Maine and Nevada, and lawmakers are using their new power to draft or pass gun laws.
In Colorado, Tom Sullivan spent years urging lawmakers to tackle gun violence after his 27-year-old son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 movie theater shooting there.
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Now Sullivan is helping write those bills after winning a state Assembly seat, part of a Democratic wave in November that gave the party full control of Colorado's government for the first time in five years.
"People are standing up and having their voices heard," said Sullivan, who wears his son's leather jacket to the capitol. "Now they have to see me every single day."
Polls show Americans favor tougher gun laws after decades of mass shootings, including the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members. But the political might of the National Rifle Association – and its deep coffers – made supporting gun restrictions a risky proposition for many officials.
That changed last year, when Democratic candidates ran on the issue of gun violence in unprecedented numbers.
At the federal level, where Democrats captured the U.S. House of Representatives after eight years of Republican control, nearly 80 percent of the 62 freshman Democrats elected in November included gun safety in their campaign platforms, a Reuters analysis found. That far outstripped the proportion of candidates who did so in 2016.
House Democrats have introduced a bill requiring criminal background checks for private and gun show firearm sales, closing what advocates call a deadly loophole in federal law.
But with Republicans, who typically oppose gun restrictions, still in control of the U.S. Senate, the legislation's prospects appear dim.
Republican U.S. Senator Pat Toomey said a Democratic House could put pressure on the Senate to reconsider a bipartisan background checks measure he sponsored after the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 first-graders. The bill narrowly failed to get the 60 votes needed for passage.
Now, he said, "there is a distinct possibility that we could have enough Republicans to get to 60, but that's still an open question."