Rep. Brian Higgins says he has had an epiphany on the subject of guns.
Like many lawmakers in Washington, the Democratic Congressman from Buffalo used to take money from the gun lobby. (An analysis of National Rifle Association spending by The Washington Post shows Higgins accepted $5,000 from the NRA since 1998.)
But after mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and in Las Vegas -- and even before Wednesday’s school shooting in Florida -- Higgins took to Facebook to write that he is no longer accepting the group's money and is even donating the $5,000 to groups who advance gun control.
“In the last 10 years, we have had gun violence whose death and destruction is unprecedented,” Higgins said in a phone interview. “Acknowledging a problem is the first step toward solving that problem. And there are many here in Congress that refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem.”
Higgins' Republican colleagues have also accepted money from the NRA.
Rep. Tom Reed of Corning has collected $10,950 and Rep. Chris Collins of Clarence has accepted $4,000.
The 7 Eyewitness News I-Team asked all three Congressman two questions:
Do you agree or disagree with those who say there should be a renewed emphasis on gun control laws in the wake of shootings like Florida?
Do you think NRA donations to Congress have prevented discussion on this issue?
Reed issued a statement saying in part, "This tragedy is not an issue of gun control, it is an issue of ignoring the mental health crisis that is plaguing our country. The medical community can no longer brush this issue aside."
Collins also issued a statement saying in part, "We need to have a discussion as a nation about mental health and consider options that prevent individuals like this from having the opportunity to carry out these horrific actions."