The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden concluded without a single reference to gun control or pro-Second Amendment policies, but the issue could come up during Wednesday’s vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris. In fact, if the Pence debate prep team has seen a new Gallup poll on the issues most important to voters, they might be advising the vice-president to bring up Harris’ embrace of nearly every gun control law imaginable.
According to the Gallup poll, “crime” is seen as an important issue for 79% of voters, with “gun policy” not far behind at 68%. A deeper look at the poll indicates that there’s a partisan divide on the issues, however, with far more Republicans than Democrats saying that both issues are important to them.
While 70% of Democrats or Democrat-leaners say that crime is an important issue to them, 85% of Republicans and leaners say the same thing. The gap between red and blue voters on “gun policy” is even larger. Just 60% of Democrats and leaners call gun policy and important issue, but 76% of GOP voters and leaners call the issue an important one.
This helps to explain why the Biden/Harris campaign has largely been avoiding talking about their gun control agenda, and why their allies in the media haven’t been eager to bring up the issue either. Talking about their plans to ban AR-15s and other semi-automatic firearms along with commonly-owned ammunition magazines fires up Trump voters far more than it energizes their own base of support, so Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are content to let the issue sit on the back burner, at least until the election is over. If Biden/Harris win in November, however, expect them to turn up the heat on their gun ban plans.
Conversely, the Gallup poll’s finding suggest that the Trump campaign should be spending more time talking about the issue of gun control, including at tonight’s vice-presidential debate. Later today I’ll have a few suggestions for Mike Pence when it comes to debating Kamala Harris, but honestly, this should be a continual theme in the last weeks of the election, and not just a one-off reference during the debate.
It would be easy for the Trump campaign to tie in the issue of crime with gun policy, since the concern over civil unrest and increasing violent crime is largely what’s driving the historic rise in firearm sales. Team Trump can rightfully point out that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris plan to address violent crime by targeting legal gun owners with their gun and magazine ban, prohibitions on online sales of ammunition and gun parts, as well as incentivizing states to adopt restrictive and subjective gun licensing laws, allowing local police chiefs and sheriffs to decide if an applicant is “suitable” to own a gun.
The Trump campaign has done a pretty good job of portraying the president as a defender of the Second Amendment, but they could do much more to hammer home what the Biden/Harris anti-gun agenda would mean for the more than 100-million Americans who own firearms. It’s a winning issue for Republicans at the moment, and they should be pressing their advantage whenever possible.