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During Sunday’s Daytona 500 race, veteran driver Michael Waltrip showed off his car, which was sporting a new look to honor the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Waltrip’s Toyota Camry got a new paint job earlier this month—brushing on the number 26 to signify the number of  victims, changing its colors to green and white, and  adding a green ribbon to the hood.

“Driving the No. 26 Sandy Hook School Support Fund Toyota is like nothing I have ever been part of in my NASCAR career. It will be an emotional week knowing that we have the potential to do so much good for the Newtown community. I’m racing for a reason,” Waltrip commented.

Waltrip and Swan Racing Company did this in hopes of lifting the spirits of those affected by the tragedy, as well as raise funds for the town to use as they see fit, be that a new school, a memorial, or therapy and counseling for children and teachers. Supporters can still text “Newtown” to 80888 to donate $10 to the cause.

While it’s admirable that Waltrip used his platform to bring awareness and help this community, he has the potential to do much more. In claiming that he wants to “rally around this cause and make a huge difference for a community in need,” Waltrip should speak out on the bigger issue at hand—gun control.  Funds can certainly bring assistance to those who need it, but supporting greater measures like universal background checks, a ban on assault-style weapons, and finally putting an end to gun show loopholes could prolong Waltrip’s effort for years to come.

A majority of Americans, including NRA members, support reforming current gun laws, but NRA-backed Republicans are complicating the process, claiming measure suggested by Democrat infringe on individuals’ Second Amendment rights. One of those Republicans, former senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA), recently said on ABC’s This Week, “Oh, I think we should stick to our guns.” Ironically, during last year’s Daytona 500, car No. 26 was sponsored by Rick Santorum’s campaign.

Waltrip appeared on MSNBC’s The Ed Show on Friday evening to discuss his efforts to help Newtown families, but host Ed Schultz missed a perfect opportunity to press Waltrip on his stance on gun control. Predictably, when asked, Waltrip played the “I’m only a racecar driver” card as an excuse not to comment on the hot-button issue.

It’s nearly impossible to have a significant conversation about the Newtown shooting without discussing the future of gun laws, yet Schultz allowed Waltrip to do just that. Having received a great amount of praise for helping victims, Waltrip is treading lightly around the elephant in the room in an attempt to avoid any criticism from gun-owning NASCAR fans.

While Waltrip’s efforts are commendable, his recognition among the millions of Americans watched Sunday’s race had the potential to speak volumes on the issue of guns and keeping communities safe. He still hasn’t spoken on the issue and his representatives hadn’t responded to a request for comment by The National Memo at press time.

H/T: The Daily Agenda

(Photo via John Raoux/AP)

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