As the nation watched Friday’s high school shooting unfold in Texas – the sixth since the attack in Parkland, Fla. – Lucy McBath was on the campaign trail in Georgia.
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She knew what the parents were going through.
“I was just as angry and devastated on Friday with Santa Fe as I was for Parkland because Jordan was the same age as all these children that have been gunned down,” she said.
Her son Jordan was 17 when he was shot and killed in 2012 by a stranger at a gas station.
Now, McBath is part of a growing movement: parents who’ve lost a child to gun violence running for office.
“I never expected this to happen but I know that in light of all my experiences, to not to do anything is a tragedy in itself,” McBath said in an interview with ABC News.
McBath, a former flight attendant and spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety, is running for Congress in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
She was originally running for state House but she switched to run for U.S. House in March, after the Parkland shooting.
“I’m sure you’ll continue to see more parents like myself who are losing their children standing up. It’s just going to happen,” McBath said.
My heart is broken for the students and families of Santa Fe Texas. I am praying for you, but I promise to spend the rest of my life protecting U and those like you. #standingwithU ????
— Lucia Kay McBath (@lucymcbath) May 18, 2018
If Georgia’s 6th district sounds familiar, that’s because a special election there last year was widely reported on and viewed as a barometer of public opinion on President Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton nearly turned the district blue in 2016, losing by less than two percentage points to Trump in a district that hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in Congress since 1979.
Democratic hopes were defeated by Republican Rep. Karen Handel, who beat opponent Jon Ossoff and made history by becoming Georgia’s first ever woman to represent the state in Congress. Since that June 2017 special election, however, Democratic enthusiasm has led to pickups in states like Pennsylvania and Alabama.
“We know the eyes and ears of the nation are here, we’re really trying to make sure that democracy works here in our state and make sure that it works for everybody,” McBath said. “At least I am,” the candidate added with a laugh.
McBath will face three other Democratic candidates on Tuesday: former TV news anchor Bobby Kaple, businessman Kevin Abel and management consultant Steve Knight Griffin. Kaple, who had $290,000 in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period, has the endorsement of Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, and numerous prominent Democrats in the state.
McBath finished the pre-primary reporting period with about $69,000 in the bank but recently received a donation a large $540,000 donation from Everytown for Gun Violence for television ads.
Georgia is a red state, which makes it a tough for a candidate running on a platform of stricter gun control.
But Georgia is also a state that faces more firearms deaths than the national average. In 2016, 1,571 people died in Georgia from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — bringing the rate of deaths to 15 per every 100,000 residents. The national average in 2016 was 11.8 per 100,000 population.
But McBath is adamant that she is not an anti-gun candidate. According to her campaign, McBath wants background checks for all gun sales, the defeat of conceal carry reciprocity, a higher minimum age of purchase and laws that ban domestic abusers and criminals from buying guns.
“The thing about it is that I’m not against guns. I’m not against the Second Amendment. I’m not against law-abiding gun owners and hunters owning their guns,” she said.
What she is against, she said, is people who “want to use their guns in a way that is criminal.”
“We have to get a grip on keeping the guns out of hands of people who should not have them,” McBath said.
Throughout her campaign, she’s tried to push back on claims that she’s a one-issue candidate. Knowing what it’s like to lose a son, she said, she can understand other issues that hurt families – such as immigration and the fear of losing someone to deportation.
“I know what it’s like to tear families apart from gun violence — we shouldn’t be doing that with immigration,” McBath said.
Other parts of her platform are inspired by her experience raising her son and being a single mother. At one point, she was so disappointed in the education system she decided she had to homeschool him.
“I recognized my neighborhood wasn’t going to be able to give Jordan the education I wanted him to have,” she said.
“So, yes, guns is a huge part of my platform,” McBath said. “But it’s not the only part of my platform because a lot of what I’m talking about I’ve experienced myself. That’s been my reality.”