When the gun control advocacy group led by the former congresswoman from Arizona threw its support behind several endangered Senate Democrats in Western and Southern states, the candidates carefully moved to distance themselves from the affable Ms. Giffords and boasted about their strident defense of Second Amendment rights.
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An activist in Ms. Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC said the group is “fully aware” of the potential to hurt Democrats they try to help. “It’s something we think about a lot,” said the activist, who spoke privately about the internal deliberations at ARS. He said the group’s research shows that publicizing gun issues motivates gun control supporters and persuades people to join the cause, especially among female voters.