Bishop drops gun, union stances from campaign site

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Republican Rep. Mike Bishop’s support of the Second Amendment, right-to-carry legislation and his A/A+ rating from the National Rifle Association have been removed from his campaign website.

The change comes as Republicans are increasingly worried about casualties in vulnerable U.S. House districts in the fall midterm elections, and as student survivors of last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, keep up calls for action on gun reform.

Bishop campaign spokesman Stu Sandler said the issues page was updated recently for the first time since Bishop was a U.S. House candidate in 2014, and now focuses on matters in which the Rochester Republican has played a role during his time in Congress.

“The issues are ones that come up in the community but also that he’s had a major role in terms of legislation — jobs and the economy, tax reform, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, pipeline safety, opioid task force — go down the line,” Sandler said.

“This isn’t the last time it will be revised, but this is the first time it’s been revised in a long while.”

Bishop, who is serving his second term in Congress, filed this week to run for re-election and released a video of himself talking about growing up in Michigan’s 8th District, which includes Ingham, Livingston and parts of northern Oakland counties.

“This community is important to me, the people and the issues they face are personal to me, and that is why I’m honored to serve as their congressman, and it is the reason I’m running for re-election,” Bishop said in a statement.

Democratic hopeful Elissa Slotkin of Holly raised more money than Bishop for the last two quarters of 2017, though he ended the year with more than $971,000 in cash reserves to Slotkin’s $711,000.

Election forecasters such as the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have shifted their ratings for the 8th District from “likely” Republican to “leans” Republican, citing Slotkin’s national security experience and early fund-raising success. Democrat Chris Smith of East Lansing is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

The “issues” page of Bishop’s website no longer mentions guns or the Second Amendment. Also scrubbed from the page are descriptions of Bishop as a supporter of right to work laws, his opposition to abortion and to amnesty for undocumented immigrants.

The campaign site now features largely bipartisan issues, including the opioid epidemic, college affordability, Great Lakes conservation and protecting children from predators.

Congress recently approved Bishop’s bill allowing youth organizations like the YMCA and scouts to access Federal Bureau of Investigation background checks for prospective staff and volunteers.

It’s unclear when Bishop’s website was revised. An archived version of the issues page from August 2017 captured how it included his NRA rating and positions on abortion, immigration, as well as his perfect voting record as a state lawmaker, with no missed votes.

Bishop has accepted at least $4,000 from the NRA, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, but he suggested it doesn’t influence how he votes.

“The NRA doesn’t play very much in my district. I have been a Second Amendment defender — a defender of the Constitution my entire career,” Bishop said in an interview last month with The Detroit News.

“The NRA is not an issue for me. It’s an entity like any other group out there, and there are literally thousands of them who approach members every day that represent different issues. If you are a member of Congress and aligned with one organization so much so that your principles are negatively influenced, then you have to distance yourself from that organization. I’ve never met an organization that required me to do so.”

Bishop’s updated website touts his membership in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which he said he joined last fall and which is trying to find gun-safety solutions.

“I’m not operating under this false premise that we can come up with a silver bullet,” Bishop said. “But I do believe we can make steps that we can avoid the next tragedy or prevent one of these mentally ill people who are on the streets today.”

Bishop opposes an assault weapons ban. He said he supports legislation to harden school buildings with measures such as bullet-proof glass, which could be funded through a grant program at the U.S. Department of Education.

Arming teachers is not something that’s viable because some people aren’t comfortable with weapons, Bishop said.