Republican Rep. Chris Jacobs announced Friday that he will not run for another term in Congress amid backlash over his support for new gun control measures.
Jacobs, who represents parts of western New York, including suburban Buffalo, told reporters he has decided to retire instead of facing what he said would be “an incredibly divisive election." His announcement came just days after Jacobs broke with his party and voiced support for a federal assault weapons ban.
“The last thing we need is an incredibly negative, half-truth-filled media attack funded by millions of dollars of special interest money coming into our community around this issue of guns and gun violence and gun control," he said, according to footage of his announcement.
Last week, as the nation mourned deadly shootings at a Texas elementary school and a Buffalo supermarket, Jacobs said he would vote for a federal assault weapons ban and other measures if he had a chance. His comments sparked furious backlash among conservatives, who have refused to consider new gun control legislation to try to curb the violence.
“I want to be completely transparent of where I am in Congress. If an assault weapons ban bill came to the floor that would ban something like an AR-15, I would vote for it,” Jacobs said, according to Spectrum News 1.
He also voiced support for limiting magazine capacity, said he planned to write a bill banning body armor for civilians, and said he believed it was “perfectly reasonable” to raise the age limit to purchase semi-automatic weapons to 21.
Jacobs currently represents New York’s 27th Congressional District, but had been running for the newly redrawn 23rd District, which includes large swaths of new voters, including rural counties.
Gerard Kassar, who chairs the New York State Conservative Party, welcomed Jacobs' decision in a statement, saying the party had been “perplexed” by Jacobs' "recent stance on Second Amendment rights, a position well outside the mainstream of the Republican Party, the Conservative Party, and the voters of NY 23.”
“We agree that it’s the best interest of all three — and of Congressman Jacobs himself — that he forgoes a run for reelection and returns to civilian life. We wish him only the best in his future endeavors,” he said.
Republicans have largely ignored President Joe Biden's pleas to back new measures to address gun violence despite polling that shows most U.S. adults think that mass shootings would happen less often if guns were harder to get, and support legislation that would curb access to guns or ammunition. But the numbers are highly partisan, with the vast majority of Republicans in disagreement.
Jacobs had been considered an easy favorite to win the seat before his comments, which sparked a flurry of interest from rival Republicans including Buffalo developer Carl Paladino, best known for his combative campaign for governor in 2010. New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of GOP leadership and rising star in the party, endorsed Paladino shortly after Jacobs' announcement.