Politics & Government

Fresno students asked congressman to donate pro-gun campaign money. Here’s what he did

Fresno Democratic Congressman Jim Costa will give $6,000 to the Gabby Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence political action committee after students with March for Our Lives Fresno called him out for receiving money from a pro-gun group with ties to the National Rifle Association.

Costa penned a letter Wednesday to the group thanking them for their concerns and expressing his interest in partnering with the students in the future. He also pointed to his long history of supporting gun control measures and his work on the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus.

“There is much more work to be done to stop gun violence and improve public safety,” he said in the letter. “I applaud each of you involved in the March for Our Lives movement for your interest and engagement on this issue. We can be stronger partners by working together to end gun violence.”

Earlier this week, March for Our Lives Fresno sent Costa a letter asking him to return a campaign donation from Safari Club International, a hunting a wildlife conservation group whose president was appointed to the NRA board but then lost his bid for re-election. Costa so far is the only California Democrat in Congress to receive money from the club this year, along with many other Republicans who received Safari Club donations.

Yasmin Mendoza, the founder of the student group, called on Costa and his campaign to “do his homework better.”

In Costa’s Wednesday letter, he said he understood Safari Club to be an organization promoting safe and responsible hunting and wildlife conservation. “I recognize their contribution has made some uncomfortable,” he said.

March for Our Lives Fresno thanked Costa for going beyond their request to return the 2019 donation and donating the amount Safari Club donated to his campaign over the last three years.

“Moving forward we hope that your campaign will carefully review the donations it receives,” the group said in a statement. “Again, we thank you for standing up to do the right thing when you were called to it.”

Costa said he served with Giffords in the House of Representatives until she was shot in 2011 in Tuscon, Ariz. He considers her and her husband friends. Giffords’ organization advocates for policy change surrounding gun violence and to hold accountable the gun lobby and special interest groups.

As a cofounder of the Victims Rights Caucus, Costa said he reaches out to colleagues every time a mass violent crime occurs.

“Unfortunately, it is a responsibility I have had to fulfill all too often,” he said. “Through the Caucus we have passed federal laws that protect victims’ rights and hold perpetrators accountable. I am extremely proud of our work to provide a unified voice for crime victims and survivors.”

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.