Why Democrats are no longer afraid of gun control


The proposal is unlikely to become law with a Senate under Republican control. But the imminent adoption of a bill to impose a universal background check on all firearms purchases, scheduled for Wednesday, will mark the first time the House approves an important bill on the control of firearms. firearms since August 1994 when he banned assault weapons as part of a comprehensive crime bill. And although 77 Democrats in the House – mostly rural, blue-collar and southern – opposed the ban in 1994, defenders are waiting for defections to be met. Demands on the background check bill do not reach double digits.

"I expect the Democrats to be united," said Florida Democrat Representative Ted Deutch, Chief Whip of the House of Commons Task Force on the Prevention of Armed Violence of Democrats.

The willingness, even eagerness, of most Democrats in the House to adopt new gun control measures highlights that the party's evolution into a metropolitan coalition is changing its motives – and reconfiguring its line of main fault. For years, social and cultural issues – abortions, gay rights, guns, racial equity, and immigration – have created the most difficult divisions for a House Democrat caucus trying to protect a large number of seats in the House of Commons. rural and southern regions.

But these social issues risk creating much less discord for today's metro-centric party. The big vote expected Wednesday for the bill on background checks will likely only be the precursor to aggressive House action over the next few months on a range of other burning cultural issues that once divided the party – the legal status granted to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as their parents' children to expand workplace protections for gays and to take other measures to limit access to firearms, for example by raising the minimum age to buy one.

"I think we will see consistent and sustained legislation on gun safety," said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun control group formed by former representative Gabby Giffords. "Guns were a problem that divided the Democrats and united the Republicans, now the opposite is true."

In the future, this democratically reconstituted democratic caucus in the House risks becoming more fragmented around issues of taxation, spending and the role of the government. The new crack could involve affluent suburban lawmakers resisting the more ambitious spending plans of their liberal colleagues from safer democratic areas, such as single payer health care.

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"Fracture lines now revolve around" Medicare-for-all ", free universities, guaranteed federal jobs and the kinds of things discussed in discussions with the Green New Deal, "notes Matt Bennett, executive vice president of public affairs for Third Way Democratic Centrist Group.

As these disputes approach, Wednesday's vote on guns will reveal a degree of consensus among Democrats on unimaginable social issues in previous decades.

When Clinton passed his gun control bills in the early 1990s, he faced widespread opposition from House Democrats representing rural districts and blue-collar workers. In 1993, 69 Democratic House Democrats – more than a quarter of those who voted – opposed the Brady Bill, which required the verification of the history of all arms sales by licensed dealers. The 77 Democrats in the House who opposed the ban on assault weapons in 1994 alone accounted for 30% of voters. (Both measures were adopted only because of strong support from Republicans in the southern suburbs.)

In the mid-term elections of 1994, two months after congressional approval of the ban on assault weapons, the Republicans took control of the House and Senate, and have especially annihilated the Southern Democrats. Although the Republican wave swept away even many Democrats in the House who opposed the Clinton gun control program, these losses discouraged the party from supporting new gun control initiatives. And when Democrat Al Gore almost lost the 2000 presidential election, in part because he had failed in blue-collar states heavily subject to the National Rifle Association's fierce campaign (including New Hampshire and his home state, Tennessee), most Democrats got into debt this gun control had become a losing issue for the party. After losing the House of Commons in 1994, the Democrats controlled the House for only four years before seizing it again in the 2018 election.

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As the presidential party candidate, John Kerry understated the importance of the issue in 2004 (even though he was photographed during a goose hunt) and the President Barack Obama almost completely avoided it during his campaigns of 2008 and 2012. In 2009 and 2010, while the Democrats exercised a unified control of the government, they had presented no major proposals in terms of arms control fire.

"I do not remember anyone who even suggested that we should use firearms at the time," said Ambler, assistant to the House's powerful House rules committee. "It was on the table."

Even as late as 2011, 43 Democrats in the House voted in favor of NRA-backed legislation that would impose state-imposed arms restrictions by requiring each state to comply with a harbor permit. concealed issued by another State.

But after Obama's re-election in 2012, two factors pushed Democrats to reconsider their decision. One of them was the trauma of continuing the mass shootings, starting with Sandy Hook and continuing with a litany of tragedies so terrible that they are known only by their places: Charleston, the Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas, Parkland.

The other factor was a growing awareness that voters they feared the most to alienate by putting in place gun control measures, especially blue-collar workers and whites. rural areas, especially men, were already leaving the party for other issues. At the same time, stricter measures to control firearms have consistently garnered the support of the majority of voters in polling stations, including well-educated minorities, suburbs and whites, especially women.

Over time, the evidence became increasingly compelling that by giving up gun control, the Democrats were trying to calm the voters they had already lost, while despising the voters they were luring. In the latest survey of Pew Research Center's independent research center, for example, two-thirds of non-white adults, nearly two-thirds of white women graduated from college and a majority of white men graduated from high school. University all declared that it was more important to control the possession of weapons than to protect the rights of firearms – while a two-thirds majority of white-collar men and a slim majority white-collar women said the opposite.

The current among Democratic leaders began to change when Obama pushed a universal background check bill after Sandy Hook. Fifty Senate Democrats (including two independent caucuses with the party) voted for this, and only five of them voted against, including one, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Only for procedural reasons. (The bill failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster, and the House, under the control of the GOP at the time, declined to consider it.)

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In 2016, Hillary Clinton set up a more aggressive arms control program than any other presidential candidate since Gore in 2000. In 2017, the number of Democrats in the House who supported NRA-backed legislation on Concealed carry permit fell to six. And in 2018, dozens of Democratic challengers in the House races touted their support for additional gun control measures, particularly the verification of universal antecedents. On polling day, 40 Democratic Party candidates defeated Republican elected officials with a strong track record of supporting the NRA, according to Giffords' calculations.

"Forty Democrats have been elected to replace the Republicans and almost all of them have made gun safety a problem in their campaign," said Deutch.

The key to the changing firearms policy is that Democrats in these suburban seats in all parts of the country – even the South – are generally in favor of tougher restrictions. Representative Lucy McBath, an African-American Democrat, beat a Republican posted in the suburbs of Atlanta emphasizing her support for gun control. The Giffords organization closed its election campaign last fall with heavy spending that allowed Democrat Lizzie Fletcher to oust Republican Rep. John Culberson in the suburbs of Houston.

"If I told you a few years ago that we would close that, you would tell me that I should not have the keys to a political agenda," Ambler said. "We incorporated the firearms into the message that sent him off."

While the "blue dogs" centered in the rural districts were the main internal resistance of the Democratic Party to gun control in previous years, advocates are convinced that the universal draft law on background checks will collect support of almost all the predominantly suburban blue dog caucus, Rep. Stephanie Murphy, an American of Asian descent and a passionate gun control advocate who represents a seat outside of Orlando. Although blue dogs are likely to resist the left's most ambitious tax and spending plans, most of them easily adhere to the party's liberal cultural agenda.

Today's blue dogs "look nothing like the men who voted against these measures under Clinton," said Bennett. "The most avowed conservatives among Democrats, centrists, even most of them, will participate in these (social) initiatives."

Ambler anticipates more Republicans will rally in support of the background check bill that Democrats will not be foolish enough to oppose it. Ambler and Deutch both believe it is likely that Democrats in the House will pass other firearms laws over the next two years, such as raising the minimum age to purchase at age 21 firearms; "red flag" laws designed to allow law enforcement officers to more readily confiscate firearms from individuals considered to be an "extreme risk" of violence; and possibly legislation prohibiting certain types of semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Deutch has introduced a bill regulating assault weapons under the National Firearms Act, which prohibits fully automatic weapons. "We are going to have a debate on weapons of war and whether or not they belong to our community," Deutch said.

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Of course, any gun control measure approved by the House faces very long delays in the Senate, which is controlled by a Republican majority rooted in rural states, where gun ownership is more prevalent and where the NRA is strong. Even then, a strong vote in the House to approve universal background checks on Wednesday would mark a milestone in the reconfiguration of Democrats into a party advancing the cultural agenda of metropolitan America.

Simultaneously, the prevailing opposition to the bill, expected by House Republicans, will underscore the identity of the GOP as a voice primarily of voters beyond the larger population centers. (President Trump has already announced Monday that he would veto the bill if he allowed both houses.)

Thus, the new Democrats' unity on guns – and probably on other social issues – seems to reinforce and even accelerate the geographic and demographic recourse of parties that has reshaped US policy since the House approved a control. Major firearms bill almost 25 years ago.

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