Barrow Seeks Electoral Edge in Gun Ad for Black Voters

Democrat Representative John Barrow is trying to appeal to Southern black voters and conservative white Georgians at the same time -- by talking about how his grandfather used a gun to stop a lynching.

Barrow of Georgia, among the most vulnerable Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, wields a handgun in a new broadcast advertisement along with his permit to carry it.

“We all know how Washington Democrats look down on people who carry firearms, but I know better,” he says, citing his grandfather’s role in helping to stop a lynching and touting his endorsement from the National Rifle Association. “He couldn’t have done it if he couldn’t have carried it with him,” he says of his grandfather.

“Like my daddy used to say, you never really need a gun, unless you need it bad,” Barrow says in the ad, which is funded by his campaign.

Barrow, 58, is ranked among the 13 most vulnerable lawmakers in his party in this year’s election by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, and he’s among an almost extinct group of southern Democrats who’ve largely been swept out of office in the past two congressional elections.

While Barrow has produced other ads in which he wields a gun -- he did so in 2012 -- his latest spot underscores the Democratic Party’s struggles to change the politics of the gun issue in the aftermath of the December 2012 mass shooting of 20 school children in Newtown, Connecticut.

Political Peril

Democrats like Barrow in Republican-leaning states are still calculating that it’s better to cozy up to the NRA rather than broach the politically perilous issue of expanded background checks. U.S. voters go to the polls on Nov. 4.

Barrow’s ad doesn’t mention that it has been almost 70 years since the last recorded mass lynching took place in rural Georgia. Even so, in 2011 the state had the nation’s third-highest rate of robberies with a firearm at 72.5 robberies per 100,000 people, according to the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based research group that aligns with Democrats.

Georgia also has one of the highest rates of crime-gun exports, or guns sold in the state that are used in crimes in other states. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence rated Georgia an “F” in December 2013, saying it has one of the nation’s least-restrictive firearms laws.

In 2014, Georgia changed its laws to allow guns to be carried in airports, government buildings and other locations.

Legislation that didn’t advance in the Democratic-led U.S. Senate in April 2013 would have expanded background checks to sales over the Internet and at gun shows. Concealed-carry laws were never a part of the debate.

The last mass lynching in Georgia took place on July 25, 1946, according to New Georgia Encyclopedia. Two young black couples who worked as sharecroppers, Roger and Dorothy Malcom and George and Mae Murray Dorsey, were taken by an unmasked mob to a bridge and beaten and shot multiple times.

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