A Republican New York congressman who recently voiced support of gun control legislation announced on Friday that he will no longer seek reelection after receiving backlash over his stance.
Chris Jacobs’ support of such legislation – which came in the wake of deadly mass shootings at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store and Uvalde, Texas, elementary school – had prompted his conservative and GOP colleagues to withdraw their support.
Jacobs, who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in 2020 and recently introduced legislation to protect bankrupt gun owners’ rights, did not back any policy that would dramatically impact gun ownership. Rather, Jacobs expressed his favor for several measures that would limit access to the particularly lethal weaponry used in recent mass killings.
“A ban on something like an AR-15, I would vote for,” Jacobs said on 27 May. “So I want to be clear, I would vote for it.”
“Individuals cannot buy beer, they cannot get cigarettes [until] 21,” Jacobs said. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable that the age limit, at least for these highly lethal, high capacity semi automatic weapons, should be 21.”
Jacobs said that he planned on introducing legislation that would limit access to body armor and would name the bill after Aaron Salter, a retired police officer who was killed in the mass shooting at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo on 14 May, reported Ashley Rowe, an anchor with 7 Eyewitness News. Salter worked as a security guard at the supermarket and opened fire on the shooter in an attempt to stop him, but the gunman was wearing body armor and killed 10.
In explaining his support of such measures, Jacobs told the Buffalo News: “Being a father and having young children and visualizing what those parents are going through and, I guess, being able to feel it more personally certainly has had an impact as well. ”
Jacobs’ comments on gun legislation stood in stark contrast to his GOP counterparts, who have often blamed mass shootings on mental illness and suggested that school safety hinged on armed security. Some conservatives and Republicans effectively framed Jacobs as a traitor to his party due to his comments.
“This is not the person we endorsed. We did not endorse this Chris Jacobs … he’s actually to the left of [US House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi on this,” said Gerard Kassar, New York’s Conservative party state chair, to the New York Post on Thursday.
The Erie county, New York, Conservative chairman, Ralph Lorigo, described Jacobs’ position as “very disappointing” and said “we can’t support him in this district”, according to Rochesterfirst.com.
“’Republican @RepJacobs already caved to the gun-grabbers whose proposals won’t do a single thing to protect our families & children from criminals & murderers,” Donald Trump Jr said on Twitter. “He knows this but he can’t resist getting a few glowing headlines from the mainstream media.”
Jacobs insisted he did not decide to withdraw from the race over backlash, saying: “I didn’t feel any heat on this issue. No one called me about the assault weapon ban.”
“This is purely a personal contemplation, prayer, and talking to people, that I felt this was the right thing to do,” he said. “And the time was now to do it.”
Jacobs’ announcement came one day after Joe Biden made an impassioned plea for an assault weapons ban and prohibition on high-capacity magazines.
Reactions to the president’s speech largely followed party lines, with Democrats supporting his proposals and Republicans slamming them as unduly politicized.
Movement on gun control legislation at the state and federal levels suggests the prospect of mixed results rather than unified policy. While Maine Republican senator Susan Collins recently said that a bipartisan group of senators made significant progress in negotiating gun law reforms, GOP opposition in the senate could easily stymie these efforts.
States have taken different approaches in addressing gun violence. New York’s legislature on Thursday passed a set of bills that barred most civilians from purchasing body armor and upped the age requirement for buying a semiautomatic rifle to 21, the New York Times reported.
In Texas, Republican governor Greg Abbott asked his lieutenant and a high-level state legislator “to each convene a special legislative committee”. Abbott insisted “we must reassess the twin issues of school safety and mass violence,” but Texas has historically eased firearms restrictions following mass shootings.