Clarence, New York (AP) – After back-to-back mass shootings last spring, including I killed 10 people in a supermarket Not far from his home in suburban Buffalo, Republican Representative Chris Jacobs made a decision.
He told voters in his conservative congressional district that if the assault weapons ban reached the House floor, he would support it.
“I couldn’t have said anything,” Jacobs said. The silence would have allowed him to roam the Republican primary. But after 31 deaths in 10 days, of which 19 children were killed at a school in Ovaldi, Texas, He felt obligated to take a public stand.
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“Having two young children, it’s really — you get a different perspective when you think about going home with your kids when those 19 kids die,” Jacobs said.
A week later another decision came. With Republicans withdrawing their support for him in droves, Jacobs announced that he would not seek re-election.
The end of his career is another sign of the ever-increasing polarization in Congress where, as Jacobs put it, “If you walk away from a partisan position, you are annihilated.”
“There are a lot of single-issue voters in the Republican Party on this issue, and on the other side, abortion,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“I think the idea of large party tents is very important. Right now, it seems very dangerous both ways, and I don’t think that is a good thing,” he said. “.
But if there was regret for the decision that suddenly stopped his political career, then this does not appear. On his way out of Congress, the Republican serving his first full term doubled down on his support for regulating some high-powered firearms, and proposed a licensing system for people who wanted to buy them.
Ninety-nine percent of people are very responsible gun owners. Unfortunately, saying that only 1% (of those who aren’t) doesn’t give solace to someone who unconsciously lost someone in Buffalo or in one of these mass shootings,” Jacobs said.
Its federal assault weapons licensing law would require people to take a safety training course, pass an FBI background check and submit fingerprints before purchasing a “semi-automatic assault weapon.” There are exceptions, including for current owners, military officers and active-duty law enforcement officers.
The steps would be similar to those required for the thousands of handgun permits Jacobs issued during his five years as an Erie County employee, a process he considers a reasonable balance between Second Amendment protections and responsible ownership.
Many former Jacobs supporters see his position as a betrayal.
“It’s really unacceptable,” said the state’s Conservative Party chief, Gerard Cassar.
Kassar said, “In terms of individual issues, the Second Amendment in parts of upstate New York … is one very, very important subject and represents more than just the issue of guns. It’s the issue of liberty, it’s the cause of Constitutionalists. It’s the position of libertarians.”
Donald Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter that Jacobs “has surrendered to the gun specialists.”
Jacobs’ reputation as a moderate has so far worked in his favour. He was the first Republican to elect an Erie County clerk in 40 years and gained admission to the school board at the heavily democratic Buffalo County seat.
He was serving in the state Senate when, with the endorsement of President Donald Trump, he won a special election to Congress in June 2020.
In Congress, the National Rifle Association supported Jacobs, voted against Trump’s impeachment and strongly advocated the completion of the wall the former president had begun along the southern border.
But his break with the party began when the 18-year-old shooter killed 10 black people and injured three victims at a Top Friendly Market near his real estate development business.
“It was profound for all of us,” said Jacobs, a prominent member of the Buffalo family. His uncle is Jeremy Jacobs, billionaire owner of the Boston Bruins and president of the Delaware North franchises.
Two weeks later, another 18-year-old with a similar weapon opened fire on an elementary school in Ovaldi, killing 19 students and two teachers. This time, Jacobs’ thoughts turned to his children, one 3 and one less than a year old.
If Jacobs had decided to run for re-election, he would have campaigned in a newly drawn area that was more conservative than the one he now represents in the suburbs and rural areas around Buffalo.
The new territory was to include six new, mostly rural counties along the Pennsylvania border that he is largely unknown.
“Obviously if I ran—and thought I could—but I thought the NRA would be out of big bucks and didn’t think it was good for the region or the party,” Jacobs said, “and I just decided it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
State Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langorthy eventually won the new district’s primaries and will be the favorite against Democrat Max Della Bia in November. Langworthy intervened after saying he was surprised by Jacobs’ support for a ban on semi-automatic firearms.
“I think everyone has been surprised to have taken the Democrats’ position on gun control,” he said at the time.
If elected, his campaign spokesman, Chris Grant, said in a statement to The Associated Press that if elected, “Langworthy will not support the assault weapons ban or other legislation that limits the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans that has proven ineffective.”
Andrea Neckscher, who co-founded a progressive group in the present-day Jacobs district, has long criticized the Republican for his pro-Trump politics and vote. However, I was disappointed by his decision to leave his post after changing his stance on firearms.
“I’m sorry he didn’t run,” she said. I think it would have been a very meaningful speech, and it could have moved his party in a more positive direction. The power of the position is strong, and I wish he had used that power to push this debate in his party even further.”
Jacobs has yet to find support for the assault weapons license proposal and doesn’t expect to see it emerge with the election a few weeks away.
But he said he hopes more support will emerge after November.
He said, “I’m going to bring this up, and I hope someone catches it.”
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