AP Photo/ Cheryl Senter
Not only is Michael Bloomberg prepared to spend $500 million in the 2020 elections to defeat Donald Trump through independent expenditures and donations to his gun control groups, he has his own media empire which will steadily be pumping out stories pushing Republicans to support gun control or else risk defeat at the polls next year. Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur seeks to push the idea that gun control is a losing issue for the GOP.
The 2018 election reflected a changing landscape on guns. Republicans were swept out of the House majority after losing suburban bastions where they were once dominant — in places like Orange County, California, and around Dallas and Houston in Texas. Voters in 2018 favoured stricter gun control by a margin of 22 percentage points, and those who did backed Democrats by a margin of 76 per cent to 22 per cent, according to exit polls. Gun policy ranked as the No. 4 concern, and voters who cited it as their top issue voted for Democrats by a margin of 70 per cent to 29 per cent.
And the mood has changed since 2016.
The gun issue propelled Trump in key states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania among voters who opposed Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton’s support for gun control, said Republican strategist Brad Todd, whose firm polled on the issue. Todd said swing voters may still “see upsides and downsides to both approaches” on gun policy.
Already, notes Kapur, some Republicans in Washington are voicing approval for a number of gun control bills in the wake of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
While most Republicans have opposed expanding background checks and banning assault-rifles, GOP Senator Lindsey Graham said Monday he cut a deal with Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal on “red flag” legislation to assist and encourage states to keep guns away from people who are found to pose an imminent risk of violence. Many Democrats said that wasn’t enough and called for a renewal of the assault-weapons ban and universal background checks, among other measures.
From a political perspective, Republicans who might be considering trying to find some sort of middle-of-the-road compromise need to understand that gun control activists aren’t interested in half-measures. Support “red flag” laws and the anti-gun activists will still oppose you for not supporting an “assault weapons ban”. Support “universal background checks” and the gun control groups will still spend money to unseat you because you don’t back gun licensing laws. Meanwhile, as you adopt the talking points of the gun control movement, your own base will move away from you, disappointed, angry, and frustrated over your willingness to cave on your defense of the right to keep and bear arms.
The answer for Republicans, in my opinion, isn’t to sign on to gun control legislation that they know is ineffective and unconstitutional, but may be politically popular among Americans who don’t know the details of various gun bills and don’t care much about the 2nd Amendment. Instead, they should be proactive in defending the 2nd Amendment as well as putting forth ideas that will actually work to address the various forms of “gun violence”, from suicides and gang violence to the the far less common but far more publicized mass shootings. In Virginia, for example, Delegate Todd Gilbert is proposing legislation targeting the most violent gang offenders instead of putting more gun control laws on the books that would be ignored by gang members and other violent criminals.
Gun control activists have most of the news media on their side, along with most celebrities. It’s much easier for the gun control side to influence public opinion, without a doubt. That doesn’t make their plans any better, constitutional, or effective. It just gives them a larger pulpit. The GOP and other pro-2nd Amendment candidates must make their case that they’re not just fighting for the constitutional rights of Americans, but that they’re fighting for plans that will actually address these various forms of violence, and will do it far better than any of the gun control proposals we’ve seen.