Two Dems donate NRA contributions after Vegas shooting

Two Dems donate NRA contributions after Vegas shooting
© Greg Nash

Two House Democrats who were once given thousands of dollars from the National Rifle Association have donated the money elsewhere in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Democrats have been agitating for gun reforms after the massacre in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history with nearly 60 dead and more than 500 wounded.

Both Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) once held “A” ratings from the NRA, but they have have embraced gun control measures in recent years amid their party’s broader shift on firearms.

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This week, Ryan donated the amount of past contributions his campaign received from the NRA — $20,000 — to three gun control advocacy groups: Everytown for Gun Safety, Americans for Responsible Solutions and Sandy Hook Promise.

Walz, meanwhile, donated the $18,900 he received from the NRA to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which provides support for families of military personnel wounded or killed during their service.

“So we just raised money from the NRA,” Mark Kelly, a former Navy captain who founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, joked Friday to reporters at the group’s headquarters in Washington.

Kelly established the group with his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a constituent event in 2011.

The two lawmakers still identify themselves as “sportsmen” who hunt and shoot, but support measures like expanding background checks for gun sales, opposing concealed-carry reciprocity and lifting the restrictions on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to research gun violence as a public health problem.

Current law prohibits the CDC from activity that “may be used to advocate or promote gun control,” which the agency has interpreted as researching gun violence.

Ryan broke with the NRA after he endorsed expanded background check legislation after the 2013 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Walz gave away his past NRA contributions under pressure from his Democratic primary opponents in his campaign for Minnesota governor.

Walz represents a rural district that President Trump won by double digits. It is considered one of the most competitive districts in the country.

"Today, some of the same politicians who have been unable to produce results on gun violence prevention in Minnesota chose to use this tragedy to gain a political edge in the campaign for governor,” Walz said in a statement when announcing he would contribute his funds from the NRA, according to Go MN News.

"I get it — that's politics. It's also a distraction from the task at hand, which should be acting to stop tragedies like the attack that just took place in Las Vegas from happening again,” Walz said.

Ryan's profile has also been rising.

He unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) for Democratic leader last year, arguing that Democrats should be led by someone who represents the kind of white working-class voters who swung the 2016 election to President Trump. Since then, Ryan has occasionally been floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.

“I am tired of offering up the same condolences again and again while Congress continues to sit on the sidelines. I am ready to have this debate and hopeful that we can vote on gun reform that can keep these types of dangerous firearms off our streets and out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill,” Ryan said in a statement.

Mike Lillis contributed.