In a Washington Post op-ed this morning, Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt lays out the ways in which gun safety was a winning issue in the midterm elections, and explains how the 116th Congress has a mandate to take action on gun safety — beginning with comprehensive background checks in January.
“The NRA — for decades one of the country’s most formidable electoral machines — suffered a major breakdown at the ballot box on Nov. 6. In race after race, Republican candidates with NRA grades of A or A-plus lost to Democrats who ran hard on gun-safety credentials. …
“… In the 43 races where candidates endorsed by Everytown for Gun Safety — a gun-violence-prevention organization that I represent — ran against NRA-endorsed candidates, 78 percent of the gun-safety candidates won (with three of the races yet to be called).”
Perhaps the most striking example of how the politics of gun safety — and the NRA — have changed can be seen in Steve Sisolak’s defeat of NRA favorite Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt to be Nevada’s next governor. Laxalt infamously refused to implement a voter-approved ballot measure to ensure background checks on unlicensed gun sales. In 2016, Laxalt was practically the NRA’s Nevada spokesperson, even starring in NRA ads opposing the measure.
But, after a year characterized by deadly mass shootings in Las Vegas, Parkland, and more, it became clear, even to the NRA, that its political influence and favorability had tanked, and its support might as well be a scarlet letter.
“Appearing to have been chastened by Americans’ growing fury over tragedies such as the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 concertgoers dead, as well as the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and staff members were killed in February, the NRA kept a low profile in the 2018 midterm campaigns: The organization’s political spending was down about 68 percent compared with the 2014 midterms.
“In the end, the NRA spent just $23,829 to help Laxalt’s gubernatorial campaign — far less than 1 percent of its spending to oppose the background-check ballot initiative two years earlier. Laxalt lost last week to Steve Sisolak, a champion of sensible gun laws who has vowed to expand background checks.”
As the 116th Congress comes to Washington for its orientation this week, representatives from both parties ought to read the midterm tea leaves, and take action to pass comprehensive legislation to require background checks on unlicensed gun sales.
“[S]upporting common-sense gun laws isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s good politics, too. An NBC News exit poll last week found that 60 percent of voters support stronger gun policies. A great place for lawmakers to start would be strengthening the background-check system, which in many states is riddled with loopholes. In January, the 116th Congress should consider the midterm results a mandate to act.”