Lost in all the coverage surrounding the Democrats winning control of the House and the daily chaos wrought by President Trump before and after the election were some big wins for gun control.
Across the country, a number of candidates campaigned in favor of stricter gun measures — and won. For too long, candidates have treated gun control as a third rail of politics for fear of riling up the apparatchiks at the bloody National Rifle Association. But many voters, corporations, and recent candidates are fed up with the NRA’s recalcitrance.
Maybe the 49 shooting deaths at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016 caused some to rethink the meaning of the Second Amendment. Or maybe it was the 58 people shot dead at a country music festival in Las Vegas in 2017. Or the 17 who were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in February.
Or maybe it was the fact that there have been nearly as many mass shootings in the United States this year as there have been days.
The horrific killing of 20 kids and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 should have been the mass murder to end all mass murders. But it has taken nearly 2,000 more mass shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook for changes on gun control to emerge.
At least 17 newly elected Democratic House members support stricter gun laws, including three women in Virginia, who defeated Republican incumbents backed by the NRA.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Chrissy Houlahan was elected to Congress in the redrawn Sixth District, which includes Chester County and parts of Berks County. Houlahan, a military veteran who beat an NRA member, made gun control a centerpiece of her campaign. Bucks County Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who broke ranks with the NRA and was supported by three major gun-control groups, was re-elected.
Gun-control supporters won in other gun-loving states, too. In Colorado, Democrat Jason Crow ran on gun control and knocked off GOP Rep. Mike Coffman, whose A rating from the NRA became a scarlet letter. In Georgia, Lucy McBath, a gun-control activist whose son was shot and killed in 2012, beat Republican incumbent Rep. Karen Handel. McBath said the activism of the Parkland students inspired her to run for Congress.
Indeed, the Parkland students changed the gun debate with their #NeverAgain movement. They raised millions of dollars, gave speeches, interviews, wrote op-eds, and used social media to take on pro-gun politicians.
The difference in this year’s election was money and motivation.
Gun-control groups outspent the NRA in the midterm elections. Polls show the majority of Americans support stricter gun measures, including many Republicans.
But real reform is going to take time. Republicans control the Senate, and Trump, who once supported a ban of assault rifles, has embraced the NRA and its ridiculous call to arm teachers.
Informed and energized voters — combined with candidates not afraid to take on the NRA — made a difference this year. The challenge going forward is to maintain the momentum.