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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Gloria Oladipo

House Republican cites threats and swatting of family as reasons for quitting

a man in a blue suit and tie with dark hair
Mike Gallagher, who is married with two children, said: ‘I signed up for the death threats and the late-night swatting, but they did not.’ Photograph: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Mike Gallagher has suggested that he is resigning from his seat in Congress because of death threats and swatting targeted at his family.

The Republican US representative for Wisconsin shared more insight into his decision to vacate his seat while talking with reporters on Tuesday, the NBC affiliate WLUK reported.

Gallagher, 40, said: “This is more just me wanting to prioritize being with my family ... I signed up for the death threats and the late-night swatting, but they did not. And for a young family, I would say this job is really hard.”

Gallagher is married, with two young daughters. He announced last month that he would be resigning from his congressional seat before the end of his term, effective 19 April.

Gallagher, a rising star within the Republican party, announced his retirement in February after breaking with other House Republicans and refusing to vote to impeach the homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, a Democrat.

But, in March, Gallagher said that he would be exiting Congress in April, before the end of his term. He has represented Wisconsin’s eighth district since 2017.

“After conversations with my family, I have made the decision to resign my position … effective 19 April. I’ve worked closely with House Republican leadership on this timeline,” Gallagher said in a statement.

Allies said that Gallagher decided to exit after far-right Republicans ejected Kevin McCarthy, the former House speaker, amid other shenanigans.

But Gallagher’s latest comments suggest that his early exit is tied to fears of rising political violence in the US on all sides, though the majority of threats and concerns come from the far right.

Just this week, two prominent Republicans encouraged voters to either use violence against protesters or carry weapons.

The Republican US Senate candidate Kari Lake, who is vying for a seat in Arizona, told her supporters to “strap on a Glock” ahead of the 2024 elections.

During a campaign speech in Arizona on Sunday, Lake warned the crowd that Washington DC was a “swamp” and encouraged people to carry a weapon in preparation for an “intense” election year.

A day later, the Republican senator Tom Cotton said Americans should “take matters into their own hands” when dealing with pro-Palestinian protesters, encouraging vigilantism.

Cotton, the far-right senator of Arkansas, encouraged people to “forcibly remove” demonstrators who are blocking traffic, a common protest tactic used by those calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Remarks from Lake and Cotton come as an Alabama man was arrested last week for detonating an improvised explosive device outside the state attorney general’s office.

The suspect had reportedly added a “substantial number of nails and other shrapnel to increase its destructive capability”, according to a detention memo reviewed by NBC.

An alarming number of Americans are also willing to use weapons to carry out political violence, according to a recent study.

The study from the violence prevention research program at the University of California, Davis found that a large number of gun owners in the US said they were willing to engage in political violence. Among people who have carried a firearm in public in the last 12 months, 16.5% said they would be willing to shoot someone.

Additionally, an increasing amount of politicians have reported that they are the victims of swatting, a prank which involves calling law enforcement officials to a location under the false pretense of a violent crime taking place.

Since January, at least three members of Congress have been swatted, when a call to law enforcement officials provokes an armed response.

The House of Representatives’ top security official even issued guidelines to lawmakers and their families on how to handle the incidents, Axios reported.

• This article was amended on 19 April 2024 to remove a reference to Kari Lake as a lawmaker. She is a candidate for the Senate in the 2024 election and ran for Arizona governor in 2022, but has not held office.

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