AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
As gun folks, we tend to pay close attention to the political landscape following mass shootings. An event like Parkland, for example, can have significant ramifications on gun laws and who gets elected.
However, a recent analysis suggests that the swing may not be all that significant.
A Washington Post analysis of voting results shows a similar trend following other recent, large mass shootings: a modest swing toward Democratic candidates, who often champion gun control laws, with Parkland’s three-point shift at the median.
“You would think, indeed, because everyone in these places knows people who know people affected by this, that that personal experience would magnify the impact,” said Robert Spitzer, who has written five books on the politics of gun control. “But my general assumption is those communities’ larger focus generally really isn’t about politics, and it really does not profoundly change local politics.”
The Post’s review examined communities that experienced seven of the deadliest mass shootings since Newtown, Connecticut, including Orlando; Las Vegas; Pittsburgh; San Bernardino, Calif.and Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The analysis used results in the first presidential or gubernatorial election after each attack compared with the one immediately preceding. In most cases, the changes were only slightly different from the trends across the state, but they varied widely.
After 26 children and staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, voters in Newtown shifted two points in favor of the incumbent Democratic governor in 2014, a year when the state moved decisively to the right compared with the previous presidential election. In San Bernardino, where 14 people were killed at a county government office in 2015, voters made a 17-point shift in favor of the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, while the state swung to the left by less than 10 points.
Let’s also keep in mind that California is heavily Democrat, to begin with, as well as heavily anti-gun. Shifting leftward in such a left-leaning state is hardly shocking. Even a lot of California Republicans lean further left than their fellow GOP members in other states. That means the shift leftward in such a state is going to be pronounced.
It’s not going to be replicated elsewhere.
However, this isn’t the only study to notice this, either.
In a separate study published by the British Journal of Political Science in February, researchers “failed to find any significant or substantively meaningful” overall effect of mass shootings on political views regarding gun control laws. However, the results showed local residents’ opinions became more polarized.
“There is no aggregate movement among everyone,” said Brian Schaffner, a political science professor at Tufts University and one of the study’s authors. “But we saw some evidence Republicans become more conservative and Democrats become more liberal.”
Honestly, that’s not surprising. My guess is that both sides tend to figure they know the solution and that the failures of the state to either enact gun control or honor gun rights further directly led to the shooting. As a result, they become more set in their ideologies.
But that’s just a guess.
Either way, it’s an interesting point to consider. It’s also bound to be disappointing to anti-gunners who routinely use the dead bodies as a soapbox from which to pontificate upon the error of our ways. They’re so dedicated to turning these tragedies into opportunities that I honestly think they start to look forward to them.
Only, it looks like it doesn’t do them nearly as much good as they’d like to believe.