A Brief Note on Gabby Giffords Endorsing Kirk and Toomey, and the Myth Of Encouragement

Politico: Americans for Responsible Solutions, the anti-gun violence PAC founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, on Monday endorsed two Republican senators for their 2013 vote following the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

“In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Republican Sens. Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk broke from the gun lobby and supported a bill to help prevent felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms at gun shows and online,” Giffords and Kelly wrote in aCNN op-ed. “This week, they are earning our organization’s endorsement.”

We just talked about Kirk, and his attempt to keep Republican votes while not losing everyone in Illinois who hates Trump, which is most people. Part of his (deserved) political reputation comes from things like bucking the NRA, even briefly, which is how he gets endorsements from groups like Giffords. But while, like anyone with a heart, I love Gabby Giffords, this endorsement is nonsense.

I get the instinct. If you “reward” Republicans with your endorsement in exchange for behaving like reasonable human beings on guns, you’ll get more support. That’s the theory. The other calculation is that Americans for Responsible Solutions can’t only endorse Democrats, because then they are seen as partisan actors. It’s a tough situation, to be sure.

The problem with an endorsement like this, however, is that it pretends that having Republicans in the Senate will be good for gun control. If there were a Senate full of Mark Kirks, sure, maybe something will get done. But there won’t be. They only way to have anything get done on guns is to have a Democratic House, Senate, and Presidency.

It’s nice, in theory, to say that if all the crazy GOPers lose, and people like Kirk and (on this issue only, Toomey) stay in, other back-watching Republicans will begin to moderate as well. And it is totally understandable that they want to endorse some Republicans in order to keep issue-only bipartisan cred. But it isn’t the fault of Giffords that guns are such an insanely partisan issue, and that one party refuses to be realistic, and that celebrates the cult of guns, and makes an instrument designed to kill humans the ultimate symbol of what they hold dear. They are the party that has to lose, regardless.

The problem with an endorsement is that it could help the GOP retain control of the Senate, and then nothing will get done on guns. Kirk and Toomey alone aren’t going to change the leadership. There needs to be catastrophic losses, cutting swaths against every kind of Republican, to break the NRA’s grip. I don’t object to her noble, coalition-building instincts, but anything that helps the GOP keep control of the Senate is ultimately bad for gun control.

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