In what may well be a harbinger of what political candidates can expect in the months from now until the November election, a Republican Congressman who has accepted contributions from the National Rifle Association was booed and heckled at his town hall meeting in Denver.
Rep. Mike Coffman, who has gotten $37,000 from the NRA – more than any other Colorado Congressman – asked for a moment of silence for the 17 students and faculty murdered in Parkland, Florida.
Instead, reports the Associated Press, he got grumbling and jeers, and a heckler who yelled at him, “Let’s do something for them!”
Another person yelled, “We’re done with thoughts and prayers!”
While Florida is a long way from the suburbs of Denver, the people in Coffman’s district knows all about the pain of gun violence.
Only a few miles from where the Town Hall took place is the Aurora Theater, where a lone gunman killed 13 people with an AR-15 assault rifle in 2012.
And a few miles to the southwest is Columbine High School, where 12 young lives were taken snuffed out by a gunman in 1999.
The political organization tied to former Rep Gabby Giffords has put @SpeakerRyan @RepMikeCoffman @RepComstock and @SenDeanHeller at the top of their “incumbent-defeat priority list”https://t.co/VcGJ7qRLuu
— OpenSecrets.org (@OpenSecretsDC) March 1, 2018
Coffman is in his fifth term in Congress, but his district voted for President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton in the most recent presidential elections.
When he ran before, Coffman was rarely asked about guns, in part because opponents believe that in the West people consider gun ownership a sacred tradition.
That will change this year if this town hall was any indication.
Guns and gun violence have become a volatile and emotional issue for a lot of people who might have shrugged it off in the past.
One of those was Patti Seno, who spoke at the Town Hall about memories and thoughts she has silently carried around with her since the Columbine shooting.
Seno, 53-years-old, recalled that her husband, a firefighter, was on the scene after the Columbine attack, and was at another nearby school when one student was killed in 2013.
Her son was on his way to see the movie “Batman” at the Aurora theater on the night the gunman opened fire on the audience there, in the very auditorium, he would have sat if he had come a little earlier.
She had never spoken about it but now, after the murders at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Hight, she would not remain quiet any longer.
“I am ashamed,” said Seno, a Democrat, “as it took children to shake me from my comfort zone to come forward to say enough is enough.”
“An avalanche is coming to Washington, sir,” continued Seno, “and it is going to be led by our children.”
The crowd wanted to know what Coffman was going to do. When he said he was open to “reasonable restrictions within the parameters of the Second Amendment,” the crowed vigourously booed him.
He refused to back a ban on assault weapons but said he would back confiscation of firearms if someone was judged to be of danger to themselves or others.
He had to defend his voting record, including support for a bill last year to require states to accept concealed carry permits from other states. More boos.
Afterward, Coffman shrugged off the angry crowd, saying at events like the Town Hall, “The angriest voices show up…it’s not the views of the totality of the district.”
That theory will be tested. Coffman faces a potential Democratic challenger, Jason Crow, who like Coffman is a combat veteran, but he is demanding Coffman return his NRA contributions.
Jason Crow recently released an online ad attacking Republican rep Mike Coffman, saying, "This is another perfect example of Mike Coffman and his failed leadership—the tens of thousands of dollars that he has taken from the gun lobby." https://t.co/03MxPWlWJT
— MѕTяιαl (@MsTriaI) February 26, 2018
Laura Chapin, a Democratic strategist who has been active in gun issues, said Crow and others are smart to go after the NRA favorites.
“The massacres are getting bigger and worse,” said Chapin. “It would be smart of Democrats to go after Mike Coffman’s hypocrisy.”
Chapin may well have just defined the Democrat strategy for the midterm elections later this year in many districts where Republicans now reign, but citizens are up in arms over the excessive number of guns in America, and the ease with which everyone from felons to the mentally ill can get powerful semi-automatic rifles and much more.
The time may finally have come when a mass murder takes place but everyone forgets about it shortly after and the focus moves to other issues or apathy takes over again.
If this issue stays alive, as Seno said, it may well be the result of those teenagers from Lakeland and other Millenials demanding a different kind of world where they can grow up and raise their own families with a greater degree of safety.
If so, then those lives lost in Parkland will not have been completely in vain.
Watch it here: