If you're a Democrat running for office this year, getting an "F" can be a good thing.
On Thursday, two candidates in the open primary for governor, DFL-endorsed state Rep. Erin Murphy and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, touted recent failing grades from the National Rifle Association on gun issues. Gun control has been a central campaign issue for Democrats this cycle, after several high profile shootings, including the February shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, sparked a movement from high school students and others to pass a host of gun bills, including universal background checks.
Attorney General Lori Swanson, the other DFL candidate running in the primary for governor, received a "C" grade from the NRA.
"I'm not accustomed to F grades, I'm always working on As," Murphy said in a press conference Thursday, surrounded by supporters of gun control measures. "In this case, in my career for 12 years, I've always earned an F from the NRA. I've never taken their money, and it's because I've always understood that they have been the barrier for Minnesotans' ability to make progress on the [gun issue.]"
Tim Walz also touted his "F" rating, after receiving an A-rating in past congressional campaigns. He argued the change is evidence that he is "uniquely positioned to build the coalition necessary to finally pass common sense gun legislation and keep our communities safe."
"I will build a coalition we haven’t seen before: rural, urban, suburban and exurban folks; gun owners and gun-violence survivors; hunters and advocates and police officers, and the young people who are stepping up right now across the country and here in Minnesota," he said in a press release. "This is the only way we can create lasting cultural change, and as a sportsman and veteran, I believe I am best positioned to get that done."
All three candidates support banning assault-style weapons, red-flag protective laws and further study of gun violence as a health issue. Both Murphy and Walz say they support universal background checks, while Swanson has said she supports "expanded" background checks.
It's been a point of pressure throughout the campaign. Walz was criticized for past donations from the NRA, which he later donated to charity. Swanson has been criticized for a past campaign endorsement from the NRA, which gave her an A+ rating in 2010.
This week, she announced a lawsuit seeking an injunction to block the online publication of 3D-printed gun blueprints. "Proliferation of untraceable, undetectable 3D-printed guns is a threat to our public safety,” Swanson said in a statement.
Murphy has been critical of her two DFL opponents on the issue and is pressing for a debate focused on gun control legislation. She said both Swanson and Walz are "Johnny-come-lately" to the issue. On Thursday, she announced she is also supporting increasing funding to support survivors of gun violence and banning the production and printing of 3D guns.
"Minnesotans broadly support this agenda, they show it over, and over again in the polls. They show up in this election cycle, and they show up at the Capitol," she said. "They are frustrated that their powerful voices are being ignored."