We certainly know where Chris Murphy is. The Senate Democrat from Connecticut has taken the lead both in the upper chamber and in the media on the Democrats’ push for gun control in the wake of the Uvalde massacre. Apart from Chuck Schumer himself, Murphy has drawn the lion’s share of coverage for his outrage and his push to pass for new gun control laws as a response.
Mark Kelly, on the other hand, has practically turned into the Invisible Man. Shouldn’t this be the moment for the co-founder of the Giffords Foundation to take the lead in Democratic efforts for gun control? Instead, Kelly gets almost no mention at all, except for anodyne tweets such as …
It infuriates me that Americans have come to expect that their federal government will once again react to the murder of schoolchildren by doing nothing.
— Senator Mark Kelly (@SenMarkKelly) May 24, 2022
There are commonsense reforms we can pass to reduce gun violence that align with our rights and are supported across the political spectrum. After witnessing yet another tragedy, Arizonans are right to expect action from Washington.
They should demand it.
I know I will.
— Senator Mark Kelly (@SenMarkKelly) May 24, 2022
Will he? The Senate Democrat has not yet offered any particular proposals in this direction. In fact, those four tweets are, as far as I can find, the totality of Kelly’s contribution to the current debate in his own field of activism. The only other public comment that comes up in a search on this subject was a reaction to reporters on Capitol Hill that expressed his frustration at a lack of action:
Democratic Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona expressed his frustration with the lack of action on gun laws on Wednesday, calling it ‘f***ing nuts.’
Kelly, whose wife – former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords – suffered a severe brain injury during an assassination attempt in 2011, let loose speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill.
‘It’s f***ing nuts to do nothing about this,’ he said.
Even in this article, though, all we get is Kelly’s emoting on the subject. Murphy gets six mentions in the article as taking the bull by the horns to seek out some consensus for action. Kelly doesn’t draw a single mention of any work he’s doing to “do something” in the wake of the shooting — despite his clear moral position on such efforts as the spouse of a former member of Congress who survived a mass shooting incident a decade ago.
Otherwise, Kelly has all but disappeared. Reporters who hang on every gesture Joe Manchin makes seem curiously disinterested in Kelly’s thoughts on the subject. The above report comes from the UK-based Daily Mail. A search of the New York Times for ‘Mark Kelly gun’ over the past week comes up with this, even though that search gets plenty of hits from before Uvalde:
The Washington Post does marginally better:
Even then, though, the mentions of Kelly in the two stories about this topic are regurgitations of Kelly’s remarks to reporters that the Daily Mail featured. And one is just a reprint of the Associated Press coverage, for that matter. Both put much more emphasis on Murphy’s proposals and negotiations, and neither mention any effort by Kelly to participate.
Here’s an interesting quote from the AP story, in that context:
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called it a “put-up or shut-up moment.”
So why is Kelly shutting up rather than putting up? It couldn’t be that Democrats are protecting him in his attempt to win a full term in the Senate, could it? There haven’t been a lot of polls taken in Arizona, but it’s still a purple state at best, one in which Joe Biden is not popular and the economy will weigh heavy on the minds of voters. A half-cocked gun-control push will likely alienate more Arizona voters, especially if Kelly looks like he’s being led by Chuck Schumer.
His lack of participation absolutely cannot be chalked up to a lack of personal courage, given his resumé; the former astronaut has that in spades. The obvious conclusion, then, is that all of this fulminating by Senate Democrats is performative bull**** and that they don’t want to toss Kelly to the wolves to sell it. As a political strategy, that’s understandable — to a point. This is Kelly’s big issue, and it’s a personal one for him too, and understandably so. If Kelly can’t stand up on his top issue at this particular moment, though, what good is he at all — to Democrats or Arizonans?
Less understandable is the media disinterest in Kelly over the last 48 hours. Reporters are tracking down former members of the Senate to get them on record:
Spotted @HeidiHeitkamp in the Capitol, asked her if she regretted her vote against the Manchin-Toomey background checks bill in 2013.
HEITKAMP: “I no longer have to answer your questions.”
*elevator doors close*
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) May 25, 2022
Kelly is a sitting member of the Senate and a gun-control activist to boot. Why aren’t reporters parked outside his door, demanding to know what proposals he has to get the action he’s demanding? It’s almost as if the media wants to protect Kelly’s political prospects in November as much as his fellow Democrats do.
Here’s one last look at the media focus on Kelly, this time from his home state’s largest newspaper. The Arizona Republic has only a rudimentary search function, so I ran the search in Bing and limited the results to the past week. Looks like the Republic isn’t taking much of an interest in its own state’s senator on this high-profile issue. Hmmmm.
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