Army vet Dan Helmer is one of six Democrats vying for the nomination to challenge GOP incumbent Barbara Comstock in northern Virginia’s 10th congressional district. It’s considered a competitive district in which Comstock was reelected in 2016 by 16 points, while the same voters went for Hillary Clinton by 10 points. Since Parkland, the Democrat primary has devolved into a contest to see who can call for more restrictive gun control laws.
To demonstrate his gun control bona fides and illustrate the pressing need to close the dreaded “gun-show loophole,” Helmer put on a ball cap (because all hicks and crazy gun people wear ball caps, amirite?) and bought an AR at a gun show held somewhere in the district.
In the video, Helmer makes sure to say for the camera that the AR he’s examining uses the same ammo and has the same capacity as the M4A1 he carried in Afghanistan. Strolling out, after buying the rifle (just two miles away from a school, no less!), he tells the camera that his new AR is “an incredibly dangerous piece of weaponry meant for war.”
Only Helmer seems to be having trouble recognizing the difference between the M4A1 he carried in Afghanistan from the M4gery civvy version he picked up at the gun show. We’re guessing the gun show rifle he bought was missing the giggle switch that the rifle he slung in the Army had, despite claiming that the rifle he bought is “functionally similar” to his battle rifle.
Or maybe not. Maybe Helmer somehow took possession of a full-auto-capable rifle at a Virginia gun show and walked out without a background check or paying a tax stamp. In which case, he’s now a felon. Whatever, let’s not let facts get in the way of making a political point.
The issue took on new resonance after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and appeals to the female suburban voters who helped Gov. Ralph Northam (D) win last year — a victory Democrats in Virginia’s 10th District hope to replicate in November.
The 2017 election represented a turning point for gun-control advocates. They cite exit polls that showed voters who care about gun policy were just as likely to turn out for Northam, who pledged stricter gun laws, as they did for Republican Ed Gillespie, who opposed new restrictions. Gun policy was the second-most-important issue for voters, ranking below health care and just above taxes.
Expect much more of this in a lot of competitive districts around the country. Showing how much you want to restrict access to semi-automatic weapons of war is sure to be a big plus in Democrat primary contests. The question is, how much will pressing gun control as a defining issue help them when they face Republicans in November?