Democrats have decided that gun control is the hill they want to die on come November. It seems that since support for gun control spiked following the Parkland shooting, candidates want to push down that road, thinking that’s the way to take office.
And it doesn’t look like it’s just one or two, either.
Candidates across the country and allied outside groups are seizing on the issue of guns in advertising this election cycle, but with a twist: More spots now promote gun control than oppose it.
That messaging represents a reversal from the last midterm cycle in 2014 and even 2016, when the combined total of pro-gun-rights spots in governors, House and Senate races eclipsed those touting restrictions on guns, according to a USA TODAY analysis of data from Kantar Media.
The shift follows a rash of mass shootings, including the killing of 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School six months ago Tuesday.
Democrats are driving the surge in advertising favoring gun control as polling shows the public generally supports stricter laws covering the sale of firearms and overwhelmingly supports expanded background checks.
It could be a gamble, given that curbing access to guns has long been considered the third rail of politics. For decades, prominent Democratic candidates, especially in battleground states, have sought to reassure voters of their support for protections under the Second Amendment for the right to bear arms.
In 2018, however, candidates and outside groups – particularly in House and governors races – are flooding the airwaves with pointed and sometimes dramatic messages.
Of course, that might be for the best.
You see, one thing we continually find is that while polls may show a large number of people support gun control to some extent, it’s not important enough for them to pick a candidate unless they’re pro-gun. In other words, gun control supporters are generally more lukewarm in their support, and it’s rarely why they choose a given candidate. They’re interested in other things like the economy, crime, immigration, and a whole host of other issues.
On the contrary, pro-gun voters are often driven by that pro-gun attitude. We tend to use gun rights as a litmus test to see where a candidate stands on other issues. Will they support individual liberty or will they seek a government solution to every problem? By and large, someone who supports an individual’s right to keep and bear arms will likely also side with an individual’s right to do any number of other things. Not always, but usually.
Meanwhile, candidates who jumped on the anti-gun bandwagon following Parkland are forgetting one very important thing. They’re forgetting that after a mass shooting like that, support for gun control spikes as people start clamoring to “do something,” but then drops.
That means they’re gambling on gun control not just being a critical issue for voters, but also that enough will remain committed to gun control come November despite history to the contrary.
Now, I’m not going to say there’s no way that gamble will pay off. It probably will in some places.
The question is, will it pay off enough that they can retake Congress?