The gun-control movement has a new catchphrase and a new strategy to get more laws restricting the right to bear arms passed.
Instead of lobbying Congress or state legislators, gun controllers plan to use ballot initiatives to make gun-control measures part of state constitutions.
The gun-control movement was emboldened by the passage in November of Washington state’s Initiative 594 (I-594), which mandates background checks for all gun sales, The New York Times reported. It received nearly 60 percent of the vote and took effect on Dec. 4. The National Rifle Association opposed the initiative, saying it was poorly written and would require background checks for simply handing a gun to a friend.
A coalition of antigun groups and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are now working to replicate that success in other states.
“I can’t recall ballot initiatives focused on gun policy,” Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, told The Times. “There wasn’t the money.”
The money apparently exists now. Bloomberg and his allies reportedly spent $30 million to get I-594 passed and now plan to spend similar amounts in other states, The Times reported. Fox News reported that gun foes outspent Second Amendment supporters in Washington State by a ratio of seven to one.
In Nevada, a measure to tighten restrictions on sales on gun shows has already made it to the 2016 ballot. A group called Nevadans for Background Checks says it collected 247,000 signatures to get the measures on the ballot.
The Gun Safety Movement
Antigun forces have also come up with a new name for their cause; it is now the “gun safety” movement, The Times reported. The idea is to appeal to moderate and conservative voters that are skeptical of gun control but concerned about safety.
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One of the movement’s tactics will be to focus on social problems such as domestic violence and mental illness. They want the goal to be seen as keeping guns out of the hands of those labeled mentally ill or suspected of domestic violence.
“Things that people feel are most doable politically right now are connected to domestic violence,” Webster noted. “There is a lot of uptick on that issue even in red states and states with a lot of guns.”
Eleven state legislatures, he said, have passed laws restricting gun ownership by those convicted of domestic violent crimes in the last two years.
Their Next Move?
It is not known what states the gun controllers will target next or exactly what they will put on the ballot, although The Times speculated that Wisconsin, Colorado, Maine, Arizona, Louisiana and Oregon could be among the states. There are around 17 groups working to bring such measures to the ballot.
Groups like the NRA are planning to strike back hard.
“We will be wherever they are to challenge them,” NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told The Times. Pertaining to the geography, he added, “The terrain gets a lot harder for [Bloomberg].”
The battle is also being waged in the courts, as challenges to I-594 have been filed in federal court in Washington state. Other groups have filed a legal challenge to the initiative on the Nevada state ballot.
Public Cools to Gun Control
Gun-control opponents may have an easier time thwarting these measures than some people think. A new Pew Research Poll indicates that more than half of Americans now support gun rights.
Around 52 percent say protecting gun rights is more important than safety, the poll found. The survey also showed that 57 percent of Americans believe gun ownership protects individuals from becoming victims of crime.
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