Gun Safety & The 2018 Midterms

Today, marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, when 26 people were gunned down while attending church. That shooting, combined with the Las Vegas massacre, the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, and the school shooting in Parkland, catapulted gun safety to the forefront of the national debate. As a result, this year, an unprecedented surge of candidates are talking about gun safety on the campaign trail. They’re running ads touting the fact that they’ll stand up to the NRA, proudly showcasing “F” ratings from the NRA as a proof point, and detailing gun reform platforms on their campaign websites. This all marks a sea change from past elections, where candidates on both sides of the aisle avoided talking about gun control.

Below is a snapshot of how the debate on guns has changed in the past year and how it could impact the 2018 midterms and beyond. 

GUN SAFETY IS PLAYING AN UNPRECEDENTED ROLE IN THIS YEAR’S MIDTERMS

Washington Post – Suburban Democrats Campaign on Gun Control Policies as NRA Spending Plummets

“The willingness to campaign on gun-control policies, including universal background checks and restrictions on military-style weapons, runs counter to past elections, when candidates feared the topic could isolate moderate voters or prompt reprisal from the NRA, whose spending is down about 68 percent since the 2014 midterm elections. Groups calling for gun-control measures have injected nearly $12 million into campaigns, the most they have spent in an election cycle since at least 2010.”

McClatchy – Democrats Make an Aggressive Gun Control Play in Final Election Day Push

“And even the ads from gun-control groups are more aggressive: Giffords PAC, the group founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt, and her husband, Mark Kelly, ran a TV ad against Virginia GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock that featured Giffords speaking directly to the camera, the first time the group has run such an ad.”

Reuters – Democratic Candidates Embrace Gun Control Despite Political Risks

“Thirty-eight of the 59 Democrats backed by the party’s “Red-to-Blue” campaign – targeting vulnerable Republican districts – have supported gun restrictions in their official platforms, a review of campaign websites shows. Several others separately released statements calling for limits. At this point in the 2016 election cycle, only four of 36 Red-to-Blue candidates backed gun limits in their platforms, according to a Reuters review of archived campaign websites. Reuters was unable to examine the websites for two candidates in the program that year.”

Wall Street Journal – Shootings Thrust Gun Control into Campaign Ads

“Ads promoting stricter gun regulations have aired 102,636 times across the country this year—a 22-fold increase from four years ago, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Kantar Media/CMAG data.”

New York Times – Bearing F’s From the N.R.A., Some Democrats Are Campaigning Openly on Guns

“[Jason Crow] is one of a large number of Democrats who are campaigning explicitly on gun control in a way that most would not have dared do before, when an F rating from the N.R.A. could often be a political death sentence. In one House district in Pennsylvania, both candidates are jostling for the gun control mantle.”

GUN SAFETY GROUPS ARE TROUNCING THE NRA’S POWER AND INFLUENCE

Associated Press – Rare drop in NRA Election Spending as Gun-limit Groups Rise

“The National Rifle Association — long seen as a kingmaker in Republican politics — is taking a lower profile in this year’s high-stakes midterm campaign, a sign of the shifting dynamics of the gun debate as the GOP fights to maintain its grip on Congress.”

Washington Post– The NRA appears to Pull Old Lawmaker Grades from its Website

“Another NRA employee indicated that he was aware of the change when a Washington Post reporter called over the weekend to find past grades for legislative candidates. He confirmed that the past grades were no longer online and weren’t available elsewhere.He also offered a possible rationale. ‘I think our enemies were using that,’ he said. He did not give his name.”

Boston Globe – With NRA Lying Low, Gun Control Groups Seize New Ground in Midterms

“Already vulnerable Republicans in swing districts have distanced themselves from the National Rifle Association, downplaying their top ratings that long were a political boon. And the NRA has drastically cut back political spending this cycle, leaving openings for newly energized gun control groups to run emotional ads attacking Republicans over gun violence.”

NBC – Former Gun-friendly Democrats are Battling the NRA and Winning, but they Face a Tougher Test in November

“There has been a substantial shift to the left in the Democratic Party in the 2018 elections. In the primaries, Democrats largely recalibrated their positions on gun measures, turned their backs to the NRA — and won. They now prepare for midterm battles in red-tinged states and districts against Republican pro-gun candidates and face a strong, newfound opposition from the NRA.”

IN KEY, SUBURBAN HOUSE RACES, GUN SAFETY IS A DEFINING ISSUE

Philly.com: Gun Control, Once a Third Rail, Now a Key Issue as Democrats Seek to Control House

“The shift [Chrissy] Houlahan noticed in the Sixth District, which now covers Chester County and part of Berks County — suddenly there was “permission to talk” about gun issues, she said — is one that activists say is echoed nationwide. Gun control, once considered a third rail in American politics, has emerged as a prominent issue in races across the country, particularly in several key congressional districts.”

Denver Post: Suburban Democrats like Jason Crow Campaign on Gun Control Policies as NRA Spending Plummets

“Crow, a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, often talks about hearing the news that a gunman with an assault rifle killed 12 people at a movie theater in Aurora, which is in the district. ‘I’d used military-style assault weapons at work,” he said in an interview. “And had them used against me.’”

Denverite: Jason Crow Wants Gun Reform to Become a Key Issue in the Uber-competitive CD6 Race

“Democrat Jason Crow won’t be a single-issue candidate, but on Thursday he took aim at a divisive topic that could end up driving voters and supporters out to the polls: Gun reform. The former U.S. Army Ranger and attorney said Thursday he believes the country has reached “a tipping point” on the issue of gun violence.”

NorthJersey.com: Midterm 2018: Mikie Sherrill, Gabrielle Giffords Event Highlights Gun Rights in Campaigns

“Sherrill says on her campaign website that she supports renewing a federal ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, which expired in 2004, as well as universal background checks, a ban on bump stocks and other “common-sense” measures.”

Newsy: Veteran Candidates Look to Shore up Voters on Gun Issues

“Chrissy Houlahan is a Democrat running for Congress in a district held by a Republican since 2003. She’s a veteran and former teacher, and she says these experiences have shaped her views on guns. “I felt a unique sense of empathy with my students. We all had to walk through the gun detectors every single day,” Houlahan said. “We had to worry about our safety, our personal safety, every single day, not just in the classroom but on the streets as well.””

Washington Post: Gun control or gun rights? The Answer May Help Determine Whether Rep. Comstock Wins Reelection

“Voters in Virginia believe gun control is more important than protecting gun rights, according to a recent poll that captured a watershed moment in a once-conservative state. Democrats’ pro-gun-control message contrasts sharply with Comstock’s conservative record on gun issues and A rating from the NRA.”

San Diego Union-Tribune: Giffords campaigns for Levin on Gun Violence Issue

“Giffords and Kelly are traveling across the U.S. in support of congressional candidates they believe will push for change to reduce gun violence and planned to visit Huntington Beach and Stevenson Ranch later on Sunday….Levin, a Democrat, called Giffords and Kelly “American heroes” and criticized his Republican opponent Diane Harkey for having an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.”

Politico: Giffords Targets Diaz-Balart over NRA Rating

“Mary Barzee Flores said when she entered the race that she wanted to make gun safety a top issue and she criticized Diaz-Balart, first elected in 2002 to Congress, for accepting more money from the NRA in Florida than any other member of the state’s delegation.”

IN KEY GOVERNOR RACES, DEMOCRATS ARE RUNNING AS GUN SAFETY CHAMPIONS

MinnPost: Not Sticking to his Guns: In race for Governor, Walz Embraces Role as Gun Control Candidate

“During the primary campaign, Walz had shared the “Gun Sense” candidate designation with Murphy. Now he is the sole candidate in the governor’s race with the endorsement, and Wednesday he embraced it, complimenting groups like Moms Demand Action for changing the conversation around gun safety. “We can’t live like this,” he told the group. “We can’t go on like this. Something has to change.”

Tampa Bay Times: Andrew Gillum Talks Tighter Gun Control in Broward County

“Gillum said he’s focused on trying to expand gun-control legislation that “fell short” following the Feb. 14 massacre at the Parkland high school. Everything else, he said, is a distraction. “It’s unnecessary to pin individuals, families, victims or law enforcement against each other,” Gillum told reporters in Plantation. ‘We have to put our attention on the kind of gun reform that will prevent these kinds of incidents from happening.”

Albuquerque Journal: Giffords, Lujan Grisham Push for New Gun Laws in New Mexico

“Lujan Grisham, a Democratic congresswoman from Albuquerque, said that as governor, she would support a legislative package to expand background checks to all gun purchases and prohibit domestic abusers from buying firearms. She also supports the creation of an “extreme risk protection order” – a legal process intended to allow family members or law enforcement to seek temporary court orders to confiscate firearms from someone they fear may hurt themselves or others. A crowd of supporters jammed into Lujan Grisham’s campaign headquarters in Downtown Albuquerque to hear Giffords and others speak.”

Nevada Independent: Sisolak’s New Ad Will Highlights Gun Policy

“The 30-second ad shows Sisolak driving as he recounts the 1 October shooting, which left 58 people dead and hundreds others injured on the Las Vegas Strip. It then segues into him calling for stricter gun-control measures while accusing President Trump of not standing up against the National Rifle Association and Attorney General Adam Laxalt — a Republican candidate for governor — of not enforcing background checks.”

Atlanta-Journal Constitution: Gabby Giffords’ Anti-gun Violence Group Backs Abrams in Georgia Governor Race

“Both Abrams and her Democratic opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Evans, have called for stiff new gun restrictions, marking something of a sea change for Democratic candidates for governor in Georgia.”

KATU: Gabby Giffords Ask Voters to Support Kate Brown at Gun Reform Rally

“Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is calling on Oregonians to “stand up for what’s right” and vote for Gov. Kate Brown in this November’s election. Brown says she’s delivered results on common-sense gun safety measures while her opponent, state Rep. Knute Buehler voted no on universal background checks. She also wants to ban bump stocks, ban assault weapons and raise the gun purchasing age to 21, among other measures.”

EVEN IN DEEP RED STATES, CANDIDATES EMBRACE GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION

ABC: Gun Control Advocates Take their Campaign to the State with more Registered Guns than Any in the US

“In the closely watched Senate race, O’Rourke and Cruz share different views on gun reform. During his campaign trail, O’Rourke has not shied away from expressing his sentiments on gun control in a state where recent mass shootings have energized the issue on the campaign trail.”

VICE News: Democrats in Red States Aren’t Ignoring Gun Control Anymore. They’re Embracing It.

“I am proud to have an “F” rating from the @NRA,” Abrams tweeted in May. By contrast, Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, now Abrams’ opponent for the governorship, positioned himself as a Trump-loving, Second Amendment supporter with an A+ from the NRA. In the months since, however, their focus has shifted to other issues, like healthcare, the economy, and education.