After the tragic mass killings in Las Vegas, Nev., last week, the usual political rituals ensued. Democrats called for stronger gun control laws. Republicans said it’s not a good time to talk about the issue so soon after 58 people were killed.
There was some usual back and forth about the effectiveness of gun control and whether some of the laws being discussed (during this time that’s not a good time to discuss things) would have been effective in preventing Stephen Paddock from taking his arsenal of high-velocity guns up to his 32nd-floor hotel room and firing down on the crowd attending a country music festival across the street.
There were some idiotic sideshows, like that CBS legal department employee who was fired after she posted on Facebook saying she wasn’t sympathetic toward the victims because “country music fans often are Republican gun toters.” (A little perspective here: I have not not heard one Democrat, not one gun-control advocate say they agree with this stupid sentiment. Everyone I know on both sides of the gun issue was glad this twit was fired.)
And during this time — that’s not a good time to discuss such issues — there has been renewed discussion about the tremendous influence of the gun lobby, mostly the National Rifle Association, on Republican members of Congress. Front-runners from both parties in the 2018 gubernatorial race currently serve in Congress, which means the gun issue will be one with a clear contrast between the Republicans and Democrats.
According to figures recently released by the Center for Responsive Politics, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce — the only Republican running for governor, at least so far — was in the top 20 of recipients of contributions from gun-rights groups in the 2016 election cycle. He received $23,219 from groups including the NRA, the Safari Club and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Keep in mind, that’s just a drop in the bucket of the $1.8 million that Pearce raised for that last congressional race. Interests from the oil and gas industry gave him more than $222,000, while the livestock industry contributed more than $86,000. Pearce, first elected to Congress in 2002, has taken in $129,250 from pro-gun groups since that year.
The lifetime gun-rights contributions to other members of our congressional delegation include $6,500 to U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and $5,500 to U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján. Both are Democrats and both have called for tighter gun laws.
Two New Mexico delegation members don’t have any gun lobby contributions listed. Those are U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is leading the pack of contenders in the Democratic Party’s race for governor. I looked for, but couldn’t find, contributions last year to Lujan Grisham from pro-gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety or Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Everytown was a major contributor to state legislative races in New Mexico last year, though very little of its money went to individual candidates. The lion’s share, $100,000, went to the pro-Democrat political action committee called Patriot Majority. (Everytown vastly outspent the NRA during the election, though the NRA spent a lot more during the legislative session and was successful in blocking bills calling for expanding background checks.)
Of Lujan Grisham’s primary rivals, neither Jeff Apodaca nor Peter DeBenedittis has ever run for elected office. The only one who has is state Sen. Joe Cervantes of Las Cruces. I couldn’t find any contributions from the NRA, Everytown or other gun-oriented group for his legislative races. In fact, according to The Institute for Money in State Politics, the only “single-issue” group that shows up in his reports are contributions totaling $450 from Animal Protection Voters.
But we should know next week, when the next batch of campaign finance reports are due, whether anyone on any side of the gun control issue is contributing to gubernatorial candidates.