UPDATE: After another mass shooting, gun safety advocates look to midterm success to stop violence
By Kari Paul, MarketWatch
A mass shooting killed 13 people in California on Wednesday night
Another mass shooting in the wake of this week's midterms is forcing the question of what the newly split Congress means for the future of gun control. The short answer: Ask the states.
Though Democrats -- including some who ran on gun control platforms -- now control the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican-controlled Senate means there's little chance of federal gun safety legislation being passed, said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
Many of those Republican lawmakers have received millions in contributions from the NRA (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?id=d000000082&cycle=2012) and are unlikely to pass gun safety legislation, Healey said. Instead, the House will be "on defense," trying to block laws that would make gun violence worse.
A gunman killed 12 people at a Southern California bar on Wednesday night, the 307th mass shooting in the U.S. in 2018, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that tracks gun crimes.
A number of NRA-endorsed candidates were elected and re-elected in the midterms. Incumbent Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, who has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association (https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/midterms-and-gun-control-nra-candidate-ratings-for-tight-races), beat out Democrat Beto O'Rourke for U.S. Senate. The NRA endorsed Cruz in September.
Another NRA-endorsed candidate, Republican Mike Braun, beat out incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in Indiana. Braun has an A rating from the NRA and the group said Americans "can count on him to defend our constitutional right to self-defense."
"I hope we can work with Congress to pass common sense reforms because they are needed," Healey said. "But [from] what I've seen it's the states that are going to be strong on this. That is where the action has been."
States have taken the lead on gun control
Washington voters approved a ballot measure (https://www.vox.com/2018/11/7/18071662/washington-initiative-1639-gun-control-laws-results) on Tuesday that will strengthened gun control laws in the state. It joins 20 others that have passed gun regulations in 2018, Healey said.
In March, Connecticut enacted a bill that bans bump stocks and other firearm enhancements meant to make guns (https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/09/us/gun-laws-since-parkland/index.html) more deadly. Florida increased the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21 after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
New Jersey passed several gun laws in June, including measures that reduce maximum capacity of ammunition magazines from 15 rounds to 10 rounds and the state will now release quarterly reports on gun crime.
Oregon passed a law in March that bans convicted stalkers and domestic violence offenders from buying guns. Women in abusive relationships are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a gun, according to the Giffords Law Center, a public interest law center (https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/domestic-violence-firearms/) dedicated to gun safety research.
America's latest mass shooting came the day after the Democrats regained control of the House in the midterm election results and some that as a sign that the public wants "common sense" gun safety laws, said Shannon Watts, the founder of gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action (https://momsdemandaction.org/).
"The voting public sent a strong signal to political candidates in this country that not only is gun safety no longer a third-rail issue of politics, it's also bringing people out to the polls," she said.
35 candidates backed by the NRA lost
More than 35 candidates who were backed by the NRA lost to candidates who favor stricter gun safety laws, said Matt Dietsch, chief strategist for the gun safety group March for Our Lives (https://marchforourlives.com/).
The winning midterm candidates include Lucy McBath, a former flight attendant who was moved to run for the U.S. House of Representatives on the platform of sensible gun control. Her son Jordan Davis was shot to death at a Florida gas station.
Gabby Giffords, the former Arizona Congresswoman who was shot in 2011, has become active in endorsing candidates that back gun control measures through her advocacy group Courage to Fight Gun Violence.
Personal experiences with gun violence brought out a number of new candidates and new voters, Dietsch said. March for Our Lives, which was active in mobilizing voters for the midterm elections and supporting candidates who promote gun safety, was founded by student survivors of the Parkland mass shooting.
Dietsch graduated from Parkland High School in 2016 and said his two siblings were survivors of the incident. "We are seeing our peers gunned down in the news every day," he said. "There were 11 college students killed yesterday. Young people see their power now and we are going to be a force to be reckoned with in every election to come."
Gun sales have reached a record high
However, their passion didn't translate into voter action in Florida. The winners of the state's Senate and Governor's race both favor gun rights. The NRA did not respond to request for comment.
Gun sales hit record highs of $9 billion in 2016, up 3.6% from the previous year, "bolstered by consumers' anticipation of increased violent crime and greater restrictions on firearm ownership," according to industry research group IBISWorld.
Some 60% of voters support stricter gun control (https://www.nbcnews.com/card/watch-majority-voters-favor-stricter-gun-control-ahead-midterm-elections-n932751), an exit poll from Tuesday's election by NBC News found. But it wasn't the issue that was top of mind for most voters: Only 11% said it was the most important issue facing the country (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/exit-polls-suggest-midterm-election-voters-focused-on-health-care-and-immigration-not-the-booming-economy-2018-11-06). Health care, immigration and the economy were bigger concerns.
As millennials (ages 25 to 35) and Generation Z (ages 15 to 25) become more politically involved and grow old enough to vote, they are making gun safety a legislative priority, Dietsch said. Some 78% of millennials believe it is too easy to purchase a gun in the U.S. while only 55% of the general population (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-vast-majority-of-millennials-favor-gun-control-2017-10-27) believes gun laws should be more strict. A vast majority of Americans -- 90% -- favor basic background checks for gun purchases.
Stronger gun laws lead to fewer deaths by homicide in states and counties where they are enacted, a 2018 study published by JAMA Internal Medicine found, and those effects (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-gun-laws-affect-firearm-related-homicides-and-suicides-2018-03-05) tend to cross state lines. But Wednesday's shooting showed that even states with gun control are not immune from violence. California has some of the strictest gun control laws (https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/01/politics/california-gun-laws-trnd/index.html) in the nation.
"There is no silver bullet to stop shootings given that there are 400 million weapons in the hands of Americans," Watts said. "What we need instead of this patchwork of state-by-state gun laws is meaningful federal legislation. Guns can cross state lines as easily as cars do."
-Kari Paul; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 09, 2018 05:40 ET (10:40 GMT)
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