DCCC Warned Candidates Not to Discuss Gun Policy After Las Vegas Shooting

Campaign org. told Dems to offer thoughts, prayers after massacre, not to 'politicize it'

Police tape blocks an entrance at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino
Police tape blocks an entrance at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino / Getty Images

A member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's press staff advised House candidates after the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 not to "politicize" the massacre and instead focus on offering thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.

DCCC regional press secretary Evan Lukaske told candidates in the northeast the morning after the shooting to save politics for another day, HuffPost reported Tuesday.

"You and your candidate will be understandably outraged and upset, as will your community. However, DO NOT POLITICIZE IT TODAY," Lukaske wrote in an email. "There will be time for politics and policy discussion, but any message today should be on offering thoughts/prayers for victims and their families, and thanking 1st responders who saved lives."

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Lukaske also advised Democratic candidates to refrain from using Twitter and to avoid press interviews for the rest of the week.

Gun-control activists said they were disappointed in the DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats, for warning candidates not to push policy solutions in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, which left 58 people dead and injured hundreds more.

"If the DCCC is willing to give up a key issue and offend virtually every Democrat so as not to bother eight Independents in rural Missouri, they’re even more incompetent than we thought, and Democrats should be very worried about the midterms," said Mark Glaze, senior adviser to the group Guns Down.

Glaze also described the DCCC email as "straight out of the NRA's talking points." Ladd Everitt, director of the gun violence prevention group One Pulse for America, called the email "pathetic."

Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for the Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee that backs various candidates, called Lukaske's email "a slap in the face to the movement" against gun violence.

DCCC communications director Meredith Kelly said that the intent of Lukaske's email was to tell candidates to wait for the investigation to be completed before jumping to conclusions about the shooting.

"A communications staffer who fails to provide immediate and thoughtful guidance after a national tragedy, based on the best available information at the time, is not doing his job," she told HuffPost.

The DCCC did not say whether it sent a similar message after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month.

Many Democratic members of Congress did not adhere to Lukaske's advice and quickly pushed for gun control after the Las Vegas massacre.

"To my colleagues: your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers," Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted the morning after the shooting.