The debate on gun control within the Democrat Party has become something like the Democrats’ debate over abortion: There is no debate.
You either agree with the party line — there’s the need for stricter gun control laws, if not outright abolition — or you’ve become the enemy.
One Democrat, however, is bucking the trend. Pennsylvania House candidate Conor Lamb is going rogue, saying that Democrats ought to be wary of expanding gun control regulations instead of strengthening enforcement and regulations on the book.
Lamb is running in a special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th District. It’s a gun-friendly, rural district in the western part of the state where, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “firearms are almost sacrosanct.” The Washington Times describes the March special election as “the first electoral test of post-Florida gun politics.”
However, Lamb is sounding a lot like President Donald Trump instead of spouting the standard Democrat line.
“No parent should ever drop their child off at school and be afraid they won’t be alive at the end of the day,” Lamb said in a statement, according to the Post-Gazette.
“My heart breaks for those families in Florida and, in Congress, I will work to make sure that people with serious mental illnesses do not have access to guns.”
The Washington Times reported that Lamb “would be willing to look at proposals aimed at strengthening the system, including closing the gun show ‘loophole’ and expanding firearm background checks in internet sales,” but he “said the focus should be on mental health.”
As the Times puts it: Lamb thinks that “the best way to deter these kinds of horrific events is to enforce the laws on the books.”
For a Democrat candidate, that amounts to a slam of the liberals’ gun control narrative. Not only does it put Lamb on the same side of the issue as the president, it also puts him on the same side as Republican candidate Rick Saccone
“The left always their solution is to jump on the gun itself and law-abiding citizens,” Saccone said during an interview with The Washington Times. “They want to disarm law-abiding citizens as a solution to crimes like this. It has nothing to do with this crime.”
“So they are going to call for more gun laws and more gun control and so forth and that wouldn’t have affected this at all,” he added.
“That is what they do, every time, they use it an excuse to jump on that.”
Granted, part of Lamb’s position on the Florida shooting is likely one of convenience. Lamb is to calendar year 2018 what Jon Ossoff was in 2017: a heavily-promoted “rising” young Democrat tapped to win a special election in a Republican-held district. (The district’s former congressman, Tim Murphy, resigned last year amid a scandal over an extramarital affair and the revelation that he urged the woman to have an abortion, according to The Washington Post.)
“Is Conor Lamb the Next Big Democratic Upset?” Politico Magazine’s headline blared this past weekend in a profile of the 33-year-old former Marine.
“’Jesus always started out by going and being with a certain group of people,’ says Conor Lamb as we’re winding down hilly back roads to the Washington County Gun Show,” the article begins.
“It snowed a few inches in Southwestern Pennsylvania last night and, other than the highways we’re avoiding, nothing’s been plowed. While I’m silently saying Hail Marys as the campaign staffer driving whips around farms and fields, Lamb calmly continues explaining how his faith informs his politics.
“Jesus, Lamb tells me, tried to get to know people as people before he tried to win them over with arguments. He ‘wasn’t asking people where they stood on abortion before they came and sat down with them.’”
Right after I had to physically stop my eyes from rolling at the empurpled, obvious prose, the double meaning of the metaphor began to sink in.
If he gets to Congress, the 33-year-old Lamb, like other Democrats, will likely vote reliably on whatever the party wants. However, saying so out loud is not going to fly in western Pennsylvania, where people like to “cling to their guns or religion” (as one notable Democrat once put it).
Lamb isn’t going to get elected by telling people what he’s going to do. He gets elected by speaking vaguely about Jesus, by speaking about bringing people together, and hope conservatives are lulled to sleep while an energized Democrat base wins him the seat.
While Saccone has been reliably in the lead in the polls, RealClearPolitics still calls it a toss-up. Only three polls have been taken — one in January where Saccone was up over Lamb by 12 points, and two last week which had Saccone up by 3 points and 6 points, respectively.
No matter what happens on March 13, however, Lamb’s positions reveal one thing about gun control: It’s not the winning issue Democrats think it is.
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