Taking aim at the NRA: Coffman and others enjoined in gun control debate


AURORA | Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman said last week he believes his actions and votes speak louder than the campaign donations from the National Rifle Association some are calling on him to return.

In what looks to be another hotly contested challenge for his 6th Congressional District seat, Coffman said Democrats will surely continue to try to use the donations as a campaign point.

In interviews with reporters and at a town hall Feb. 20, Coffman sidestepped answering whether he’d return nearly $35,000 he’s taken from the NRA since 2008. Campaign finance documents show the NRA has aided Coffman’s bids for Congress to the tune of nearly $70,000 — more than any other House representative currently in office in Colorado.

“I support any organization of responsible gun owners that want to support me based on what I believe in,” Coffman told a group of reporters before a fiery town hall in Greenwood Village.

Jason Crow, a Democrat bidding to challenge Coffman in November, called on the Congressman to return those NRA funds in a news release earlier in the month. But Coffman told the Sentinel those requests from Crow and his critics are mere partisan politics, attempting to divide the Republican Party.

“It’s not whether you take the money or not. It’s what you do in Congress between now and the election,” Coffman said. “I just think it’s such a partisan thing to say, ‘oh, you’re taking money from this.’ The question is what you vote for.”

His critics say Coffman’s top lifetime rating from the NRA points to votes aligned much more with the Washington gun lobby than popular opinion.

Coffman said that’s deceiving. At the town hall, Coffman said he’d consider age restrictions on buying guns — which the NRA has now come out against. He also took President Donald Trump’s lead and said he’d support a ban on “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic guns to shoot like fully automatic guns.

“If the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) doesn’t outlaw them, I would vote for legislation that would outlaw them,” Coffman told Sentinel reporters a day after the town hall.

When attendees of the town hall pressed Coffman on previous legislation, including his support of a bill that rolled back a rule confiscating guns from people deemed too incompetent to manage Social Security benefits, the congressman said it was a matter of civil rights and that even the American Civil Liberties Union supported the rollback.

Coffman could undoubtedly find campaign contributions elsewhere, said Floyd Cirulli, a political analyst and pollster in Colorado. But taking a hard stance away from the NRA could create a domino affect, turning off other conservative groups flush with cash during elections.

“I think he recognizes it’d be a huge vulnerability to accept the Democratic argument that the NRA is the enemy and accepting money from the NRA is the enemy,” Cirulli said. “That would mean a huge number of NRA supporters would be bombarded with materials that say: don’t support Coffman. There are voters out there, not just money, he would alienate by taking on the NRA.”

Coffman said the NRA is composed of a lot of different members who live in his district.

“If they feel that what I’m doing merits their support, I’m not going to say don’t support me,” Coffman said.

Other Republicans are facing the heat on NRA money and reacting much the same way.

At a town hall hosted by CNN Wednesday night, a Majory Stoneman Douglas High School junior asked Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, if he’d continue to take money from the NRA.

“The positions that I hold on the Second Amendment are the positions I’ve held since I entered office in the city of West Miami as an elected official,” Rubio said. “People buy into my agenda, and I do support the Second Amendment.”