A Third Rail No More: Incoming House Democrats Embrace Gun Control Dozens of Democratic candidates who ran in competitive suburban House districts this election year bluntly called out the need for more gun control. And many of them won.

A Third Rail No More: Incoming House Democrats Embrace Gun Control

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This past election, dozens of Democratic candidates in suburban districts made gun control a big issue in their races, and many of them won. That means the new Democratic majority in the House will have a group of lawmakers that feels emboldened to take on the NRA. Here's NPR's Asma Khalid.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: These new members of Congress are not just coastal elites. They come from places like Georgia's 6th Congressional District, a seat once held by the conservative icon Newt Gingrich. And they campaigned on promises to strengthen gun laws.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: She'll stand up for common-sense gun laws by standing up to Trump and the NRA.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Today our children huddle in supply closets hoping the next school shooter doesn't take aim at them. Why? Because Washington politicians like John Culberson take...

KIM SCHRIER: When I'm in Congress, I will fight the NRA.

KHALID: That last voice was Kim Schrier, a doctor who won a traditionally GOP district in Washington state.

SCHRIER: It's different to come at this as a pediatrician and not a career politician.

KHALID: And Schrier says something changed this year. Maybe it was Parkland because in her district, she heard about gun safety from moms.

SCHRIER: Women had a big say in this election, and I think that the issue of gun safety resonates there. I know it does.

KHALID: Schrier says she wants to see universal background checks. No doubt, there are still a few Democrats who receive support from the NRA. But on election night, Jason Crow defeated Mike Coffman, a Republican incumbent in the Denver suburbs who had an A rating from the NRA.

JASON CROW: Our community has been disproportionately impacted by gun violence over the years, from the Aurora theater shooting to Columbine. And we're going to do something about this.

KHALID: Crow specifically says Congress needs to repeal the Dickey Amendment. That's a law that dates back to the '90s that restricts federal funding for research on gun violence.

CROW: You know, it is way past time for the CDC to have the funding that they need to study this as the public health crisis that it is.

KHALID: Gun control groups say these kinds of political stances weren't just the morally right thing to do. They were politically advantageous this year. The NRA told NPR that gun control was not a decisive factor on Election Day, and it successfully defeated three Democratic senators. But what is indisputable is that gun control groups outspent the NRA this year for arguably the first time ever. John Feinblatt is the president of Everytown for Gun Safety, founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

JOHN FEINBLATT: This issue used to be considered the third rail of American politics but no longer.

KHALID: Peter Ambler agrees. He's the director of Giffords PAC, another gun control group started by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Ambler points out that in the past, some Democrats had shied away from gun legislation.

PETER AMBLER: I remember in 2006 and 2008 when Democrats recruited, you know, so-called NRA Democrats to rebuild their majority in Congress, and the manifestation of that strategy was inaction.

KHALID: Last week the likely incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN she wants action on common-sense background checks. And new members in the House are likely to unify around gun legislation because they made promises on those issues. Lanae Erickson, with the center-left think tank Third Way, says that matters even if this legislation is never signed by President Trump.

LANAE ERICKSON: The House is now going to be the seat of power for Democrats at the federal level. And so it's really going to drive the agenda for what the Democratic Party stands for going into the primary in 2020.

KHALID: Erickson says suburban women have traditionally been supportive of gun safety. And now as the Democratic Party tries to make more inroads into the suburbs, their votes will make up a bigger voice in the Democratic Party's gun policy.

Asma Khalid, NPR News.

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