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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Message To Gun Owners from Election Night 2014

Much is being written about last night's huge victory for Republicans.  In Virginia, the big story was how close the U.S. Senate race ended up.  While Warner has not claimed out right victory and Gillespie has not conceded, Warner clings to a razor thin 13,000 vote margin out of over 2 million votes cast.  The disappointing thing to note is had everyone who cast a vote for Dave Brat in the 7th District, and Barbara Comstock in the 10th also voted for Ed Gillespie, Warner would be packing his senate office this morning.  In my home county of Chesterfield, Gillespie underperformed his ticket mates Brat and Forbes (Chesterfield is split between two congressional districts) by about 5500 votes - almost half his final deficit.  If you are voting for Brat, the candidate who defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, it is hard to understand how that same person votes for Mark Warner, or doesn't vote in the Senate race at all. You have to believe those folks oppose President Obama's policies and anyone who has supported them.

Across the country, candidates who supported the rights of law-abiding gun owners won in places like Maryland where GOP candidate Larry Hogan will be the next governor, North Carolina where Thom Tillis defeated Senator Kay Hagan, and Iowa where Joni Ernst defeated Bruce Braley.  There are some exceptions however.  In Colorado, John Higgenlooper, the man who signed the ammunition magazine ban that caused Magpul to leave the state, looks like he survived a close race all the while Republican Cory Gardner was defeating Senator Mark Udall.

The troubling result is passage of Initiative 594 (I-594) in Washington State.  I wrote last month that what happens with I-594 will impact us in Virginia.  Supporters of I-594 say it simply requires so-called "universal" background checks on the sale of privately owned firearms.  But it would do so much more. And as Caleb notes over on Gun Nuts media, the strategy employed by its supporters should be a wake up call to pro-rights activists:
But allow me to return to the point. The reason why 594 passing is bad news for gun owners everywhere is because it validates Bloomberg’s strategy. This is a new kind of gun control game, they’re smarter than the Brady Campaign and they have functionally unlimited resources. Yes, they played it smart in Washington. They picked an issue that’s easy to misrepresent in universal background checks; they played that issue to a strong blue voter base, and then they spent a ton of money on marketing and GOTV. That’s textbook “Winning Ballot Questions 101″ and it’s really hard to fight against.

I would expect to see a lot more ballot question fights in the near future, and I’d expect them to be over things like background checks. It is by far the toughest fight for us, because defeating their argument requires low information blue voters to actually care about facts, and that right there is why we lost in WA. Gun rights had all the facts on their side, and they still lost.

Sure, gun control at the national level is dead for at least two years. But buckle up Sally, because at the state level things could be getting rodeo pretty quick.
Virginia is not an initiative state, but that doesn't mean we won't have to expend a considerable amount of effort on defeating legislative proposals pushing so-called "universal" background checks. That fight will be greatest in the State Senate where we have had to work hard to keep background check bills from getting out of committee even with a GOP majority.  Get ready because it's going to be a busy legislative session.

Update: John Lott asks the question, considering the initiative passed with just slightly less than 60% of the vote, with the gun ban lobby finally stop claiming that 90% support "universal" background checks?

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