New 2A battleground states emerge from midterm meltdown

While the new year is going to bring new opportunities for gun owners, from advancing Constitutional Carry legislation in states like Florida and Nebraska to using what should be pro-2A majorities on state Supreme Courts in Ohio and North Carolina to overturn existing infringements, it’s also going to bring new challenges for gun owners. As we discuss on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, it looks like two states have flipped to complete Democratic control, and there’s a possibility that a third state will have a Democratic trifect of governor and both chambers of the state legislature as well.

Minnesota Democrats already controlled the governor’s office and the state House, and are now in charge of the state Senate as well, While Gov. Tim Walz is talking about legalizing marijuana next year, he and his legislative allies have also called for universal background checks and “red flag” laws in recent months, and bills imposing those new restrictions are likely to be top priorities in the upcoming session.

The same is true in Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been itching to enact anti-gun legislation and now has a (relatively) clear path to do so.

Repeatedly during the campaign, Whitmer said she supports bolstering laws that require safely storing guns and red flag laws — measures that create a system where law enforcement can temporarily take away someone’s firearms in the event a family member, friend or loved one reports that person as being a possible threat.

A September opinion poll by Lansing-based firm EPIC-MRA found 90% of respondents favored background checks on all gun sales, including when the weapons are purchased at a gun show or other private sale. Three out of four Republicans polled supported creating a specific law to hold gun owners responsible if children illegally accessed and used a firearm.

A majority of those polled also supported a three-day waiting period on gun purchases, increasing from 18 to 21 the age requirement to purchase an assault-style firearm and other comparable measures.

“Red flag” laws and new storage mandates seem like a near certainty given Whitmer’s previously announced support, but don’t be surprised if Democrats try to go a lot further than that. This is the first time in 40 years that the party has complete control of Michigan state government, and they’re probably going to be a little drunk with their newfound power. At this point, universal background checks, raising the age to purchase, and even magazine bans are on the table, though Democrats’ first priority will most likely be abortion and not gun control.

We still don’t know who will control the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and it could be several weeks before the final results in two races that will determine the majority are established. Adding to the confusion; three of the Democrats who won election on Tuesday night won’t be serving in the legislature next year, which means special elections are on the way.

Partisan control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives remained up in the air Thursday, two days after 101 Democrats and 100 Republicans were elected, leaving two races in swing districts still unresolved.

Both of the seats are held by Republicans in the General Assembly session that ends later this month. It may be weeks before county elections officials finish vote counting to determine winners.

Democratic leaders expressed confidence Wednesday that they had wrested back majority control of the House for the first time in 12 years. But two of their successful reelection candidates also won races this week for Congress and lieutenant governor, while a third died in early October.

In Bucks County, the race in a district held most recently by Republican Rep. Frank Farry has the two candidates neck and neck. And in Montgomery County, longtime Democratic target Rep. Todd Stephens, a six-term Republican, also is in a very close race.

Democrats say they expect Allegheny County Reps. Summer Lee and Austin Davis to return briefly in January to help pick the 2023-24 speaker despite them winning higher office this week. Still, the Oct. 9 death of Rep. Tony DeLuca makes a 101-101 deadlock possible.

The speaker will have to schedule special elections for the Lee, Davis and DeLuca vacancies. If the Democrats hold the speakership, those elections are likely to occur in March. If Republicans make the decision, filling those seats in the May 16 spring primary is much more likely.

The scenario has legal and procedural experts bracing for what could be a protracted stalemate over control in early January, and puzzling over the implications if [House Minority Leader Joanna] McClinton were to be elected speaker on the strength of votes from two members who then immediately resigned.

“I wanted to go out quietly,” said House Parliamentarian Clancy Myer, who plans to retire at the end of January after more than four decades working in the Legislature. “But this isn’t working out well.”

At this point, chaos and confusion might work to the advantage of gun owners by tying up House business for weeks or months and preventing anti-gun legislation from moving forward. The fact that Democrats will be working with a one-seat margin in the House even if they do take control may also help to blunt their attacks on the Second Amendment, though it probably won’t be enough to stop them completely.

We saw a similar dynamic play out in Virginia in 2020, after Democrats took control of the state House of Delegates to go along with their slim majority in the state Senate and the governorship. While the most egregious anti-gun legislation was defeated after several rural Democrat state senators voted against his bill to ban so-called assault weapons, Democrats still managed to enact about a half-dozen other measures ranging from weakening the state’s firearm preemption laws to creating a “red flag” firearm seizure law; measures that are still mostly in effect.

Hopefully the Pennsylvania House holds as a firewall for gun control legislation, but gun owners in all three states should be prepping for a very busy session with lawmakers interested in infringing on their Second Amendment rights. Now would be a great time to join a state-level 2A group and get involved, both in the legislative battles ahead but also in support of the court challenges that will ensue if any bad bills advance to become terrible laws.