When gun store owner Ted Budd successfully ran for Congress in North Carolina in 2016, he recorded an ad about how much he loves weapons. The ad included shots of him selling guns, cocking a rifle outdoors, and loading a military-grade shotgun. In 2012, Budd speculated that the Sandy Hook massacre likely led to increased sales at his shop.
Now he's found a conspicuous new partner: Carlos Curbelo, South Florida's self-styled "moderate" Republican who after the Parkland massacre pledged to back new gun regulations.
According to Politico, Curbelo, Budd, and Illinois Republican Peter Roskam have joined forces to create the "Defending Democracy Fund," a joint fundraising agreement to help all three candidates get reelected.
Though Illinois' Roskam is no gun hater — he's been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and has attended at least one NRA rally — Budd's gun-rights beliefs are as hard-core as you'd expect from the owner of a gun shop. After the Pulse massacre in Orlando in 2016, Budd told his hometown Charlotte Observer the massacre shouldn't be blamed on firearms.
"This is not a device problem, but a people problem,” he said two years ago. “It’s intellectually lazy to continue to talk about a device problem when the real problem is evil — the darkest parts of human nature that can often go unchecked at times.”
That year, the NRA spent $4,000 trying to help Budd get elected, per the Winston-Salem Journal. (A spokesperson for Curbelo did not immediately respond to a message from New Times sent yesterday evening.)
Last year, Budd refused to back a ban on bump stocks after the Mandalay Bay massacre in Las Vegas, where the shooter used the device to modified his semiautomatic, AR-15-style rifle into a fully automatic weapon to spray bullets at the crowd enjoying a country-music concert. But Budd said banning bump stocks wouldn't solve anything because the real problem was a lack of religion in civil society.
"In wake of the worst mass shooting in American history, it is important to keep the victims and their families in focus. Too often, the conversation around these attacks shifts away from the hurting families and the fallen victims and towards scoring political points. We don’t have all the facts with regard to the Las Vegas shooting, and until we do, it’s premature to call for changes to gun laws.
What we do know is that everyday citizens as well as law enforcement, in particular, the Las Vegas Police Department, performed with integrity, courage, and professionalism under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. I will continue to pray for the victims, their families, and those still recovering.
With regard to the larger issue of violence in our society, it has many roots - from a badly failing mental health system to our increasing social separation and loss of religious faith. The rush to take away American’s second amendment rights is ill-conceived. Research indicates common gun control proposals do not solve the problems facing our society. Of the 80,000 people who tried to buy a gun illegally in 2012, only 44 were prosecuted. Until we have all the facts, our focus should be on enforcing the laws that are on the books."
Curbelo himself introduced a ban on bump stocks in Congress that same year, but the bill never came up for a vote.
Curbelo is running a hotly contested campaign for reelection in a swing district that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. In the wake of Parkland, he's already been criticized for his inconsistent position on gun reform: Politico Florida earlier this year noted that after 17 people died at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Curbelo was "on defense" over what the news agency deemed "gun-control flip-flops." After Parkland, Curbelo renewed his call for increased background checks, cosponsored a stalled bill to increase the minimum gun-buying age to 21, and joined Democratic Central Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy to cosponsor a bill allowing Congress to fund gun-violence research.
But Politico pointed out that Curbelo in the past had voted against at least two gun-safety measures, including an NRA-backed idea to repeal a Bush-era law to force the Department of Veterans Affairs to add "mentally defective" veterans to background-check lists. Curbelo also voted for a provision keeping some Social Security recipients off background-check lists, but that measure also received support from the American Civil Liberties Union as well.
Amy Kate and I are sending our thoughts & prayers to all those affected by today's shooting in San Bernardino.— Ted Budd (@RepTedBudd) April 10, 2017
My thoughts & prayers are with the victims & their families affected by the senseless act of violence in Fresno.— Ted Budd (@RepTedBudd) April 18, 2017
As we learn more about this horrendous act in Las Vegas, my prayers are with the victims and their families.— Ted Budd (@RepTedBudd) October 2, 2017
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I'm speechless. As a parent of three, I can't begin to imagine the pain this evil act has inflicted on these innocent children and their families. My prayers are with the people of Parkland.— Ted Budd (@RepTedBudd) February 14, 2018
Devastating news out of Texas today. Please join me in praying for these students, faculty, families and entire community impacted by this evil act. https://t.co/3EtesiObnW— Ted Budd (@RepTedBudd) May 18, 2018
Curbelo's Democratic opponent in this fall's election, the relatively unknown Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, has tried to paint Curbelo as an "opportunist" shifting his positions to remain in office. After Parkland, she detailed her own experience with gun violence in an ad that explained how her father was shot to death in Ecuador.
"As I've been watching these students, Emma González and David Hogg and others, speaking up, organizing, marching, I also decided that it's not right to let these kids do all of this on their own," Mucarsel-Powell told CNN. "I don't think that their voices will go away. I am completely committed to walking with them, speaking with them, and standing alongside them."