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Five Races in Which the Gun Debate Matters

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The murder of more than two dozen people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., has catapulted the gun control issue back into the spotlight, leaving some members especially vulnerable in the upcoming election cycle.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., the politics of gun control turned upside down — or so the proponents of increased firearms regulations would like to believe. The reality, however, is the issue appears likely to affect only a handful of congressional contests this cycle.

Because of recent redistricting and partisan wave elections, Congress is filled with fewer rural Democrats and suburban Republicans — the members who find themselves in the most uncomfortable political position on guns in light of President Barack Obama’s call to revive the federal assault weapons ban. Still, Democrats argue that suburban Republicans, specifically those from greater Philadelphia, are especially vulnerable on gun control issues.

Gun control advocacy groups appear to be on offense in most of the races in which the gun control debate could matter. Additionally, one major unknown factor is where pro-gun-control New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg might spend super PAC money to boost or defeat federal candidates.

The National Rifle Association, the strongest of the pro-Second Amendment organizations, declined to discuss its 2014 electoral outlook, saying it was “premature” to do so when no congressional votes on the issue had even been scheduled.

This is CQ Roll Call’s analysis at this early point in the cycle of the top races where gun control could affect the political atmosphere and the outcome.

Colorado’s 6th District

Rep. Mike Coffman’s biggest political problem is the fact that the 2012 redraw of the Colorado map transformed his once-safe GOP district into a swing seat. Additionally, the suburban Denver 6th District he represents now includes Aurora, the site of last summer’s movie theater mass shooting. That could pose a problem and a dilemma for Coffman, who has an “A” rating from the NRA.

The Aurora shooting did not have a noticeable effect on Coffman’s 2012 re-election. But Democrats and victims groups are organizing around the gun control issue. And a big difference could be his opponent: At least one possible Democratic challenger is state Rep. Rhonda Fields, whose son and his fiancee were shot and killed in 2005. Fields has earned praise for her gun control advocacy.

Republicans counter that the state has suffered a massacre before — the Columbine school shooting back in 1999 — and there was very little political fallout for pro-gun-rights elected officials in Colorado. However, Coffman appears to be treading lightly on the issue since the December shootings in Newtown.

Illinois’ 2nd District (Special Election)

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