Rep. Chris Jacobs is dropping his reelection bid after coming under fire from fellow Republicans for backing a ban on assault weapons.
The New York Republican said his newfound views on gun control would make a re-election bid difficult and divisive.
“The last thing we need is an incredibly negative, half-truth-filled media attack, funded by millions of dollars in special interest money coming into our community around this issue of guns and gun violence and gun control,” he said in announcing his withdrawal from the race.
Last week, Mr. Jacobs shocked many by signaling support for a ban on assault weapons. He also endorsed raising the minimum age for rifle sales to 21, limiting ammunition magazines and prohibiting the sale of body armor to civilians.
Mr. Jacobs, who had been endorsed by the National Rifle Association in his prior campaigns for Congress, said his evolution was caused by a recent wave of mass shootings.
One of those incidents occurred near Mr. Jacobs’ district when an 18-year-old man allegedly opened fire in a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. The shooting, which law enforcement officials say was motivated by racism, killed 10 people and wounded three others.
“I hope I’ve been compassionate when I read and heard about previous incidents like this that have happened over the years, but I guess there’s just something markedly different when it happens in your city, to people you know,” Mr. Jacobs told the Buffalo News at the time. “If an assault weapons ban bill came to the floor that would ban something like an AR-15, I would vote for it.”
That statement proved to be controversial, however. Both national Republicans and conservative groups in New York were quick to rebuke the lawmaker for his change of heart.
“‘Republican’ Chris Jacobs already caved to the gun-grabbers whose proposals won’t do a single thing to protect our families and children from criminals and murderers,” Donald Trump Jr. said on social media. “He knows this but he can’t resist getting a few glowing headlines from the mainstream media.”
The fallout became worse for Mr. Jacobs as rumors of a primary challenge began to swirl and the New York Conservative Party, which had backed him in previous races, pulled its support for his reelection bid.
“We have a problem in our country in terms of both our major parties. If you stray from a party position, you are annihilated,” Mr. Jacobs said. “For the Republicans, it became pretty apparent to me over the last week that that issue is gun control. Any gun control.”