Gun control activists start making excuses for expected midterm failures

Gun control activists start making excuses for expected midterm failures
AP Photo/John Minchillo

With less than a week to go before Election Day, it’s looking like the midterms are going to be pretty good for gun owners. The GOP is set to take control of the House, and the U.S. Senate is very much in play, while pro-2A candidates have a chance at some upset wins in states like New York and New Mexico. Meanwhile, candidates like Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke and others who’ve leaned heavily into gun control on the campaign trail are trailing their pro-gun opponents while gun control groups are running ads that focus more on abortion than on their signature issue.

Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley is another who’s run a campaign largely centered around restricting the right to keep and bear arms, and it hasn’t gone well for the former mayor of Dayton. Not only has Whaley not led in a single public poll during the campaign, she has yet to trail incumbent Mike DeWine by single digits. Every poll of the state has had DeWine up by at least 13 points, and his lead in the RealClearPolitics polling average is a whopping 18.5 points. Whaley has been trying to attack DeWine over signing Constitutional Carry legislation as well as a bill allowing school districts to allow for volunteer, vetted, and trained school staff members to carry a concealed firearm on campus, but it hasn’t helped her flailing campaign, and now gun control activists are starting to trot out their excuses for their anticipated failures in the Buckeye State.

A recent poll of Ohio voters conducted by Baldwin Wallace University’s Community Research Institute found majorities of all demographic groups, including conservatives and gun owners, support a number of steps often referred to as “common sense” gun restrictions. A whopping 85% favor expanding background checks for gun purchasers; 79% support raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle from 18 to 21; and 75% approve of “red flag” laws that allow police to temporarily remove guns from owners deemed to pose a danger.

Those numbers make it very clear where the people of Ohio stand on gun control.

But, in recent years, the Republican super-majority in the Ohio General Assembly has passed one law after another to make guns more available — permitless concealed carry; “stand your ground” legislation, a bill which takes away the requirement to retreat in the face of possible attack; and a bill that allows teachers with minimal firearms training to carry weapons in schools.

And Mike DeWine, the Republican governor who is running for re-election with a double-digit lead in most of the polls, signed every one of them into law.

And how do they manage to pass legislation and sign into law bills which fly in the face of public opinion? One word: Gerrymandering.

For the past 30 years, Republicans have controlled the process of drawing state legislative and congressional district lines — and, in the process, defying the Ohio Supreme Court to get what they want.

Their rural, small town and suburban districts outnumber the districts in the state’s large urban centers, giving them the veto-proof majority that gives the GOP a blank check to do what it wants, when it wants.

Gerrymandering, huh? That’s a handy excuse to explain the Republican majority in the state legislature, but it suffers from one fundamental flaw: Republicans are also drubbing Democrats in most of the statewide races. Not only is DeWine handily leading Whaley in the governor’s race, but Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is expected to clobber Democrat challenger Jeff Crossman as well. Polling in the AG’s race has been close to non-existant, but in their respective uncontested primaries, Yost garnered more than 870,000 votes while Crossman was able to collect about 433,000. Gerrymandering can’t explain away those numbers, which suggest that not only are there simply more active and engaged Republican voters than Democrats in Ohio, but gun control isn’t moving the needle for Democrats in the state.

“Ohio is not easy, but these issues of gun violence bring people of all backgrounds together,” [Shannon] Watts said. “And Democrats are learning that they can run and win while advocating for restrictions on guns.”

Last week, Watts came to Cincinnati and Columbus to launch a canvassing effort by Moms Demand Action volunteers who went out knocking on doors for pro-gun control candidates.

One of those candidates Watts was helping was Democratic incumbent Jessica Miranda of Forest Park, whose redrawn Ohio House district in north-central Hamilton County is considered a “toss-up.” She has a rematch this year with former Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel.

Two years ago, Miranda defeated Monzel by 2,314 votes out of over 68,000 cast. But the district has become somewhat less friendly to Democrats since then.

Miranda, who was taught by her grandfather how to shoot rifles, is one of the staunchest supporters of gun restrictions in the Ohio House.

“I never use the word ‘control’ when talking about guns,” Miranda said. “I talk about ‘gun safety.’ “

And it looks like many Ohio voters are able to see the truth behind the spin.

If gun control were the winning issue that Watts and others claim it is, Whaley would at least be in contention in the governor’s race. Instead, DeWine is set to cruise to victory, and Watts and her fellow gun restrictionists are already testing out excuses for their midterm failures.