This week saw the unexpected filing of a gun-rights lawsuit against the Biden administration.
Florida commissioner of agriculture Nikki Fried (D.) launched her challenge on Wednesday by alleging that current federal law prohibiting state-licensed medical marijuana users from owning guns violates the Second Amendment.
“I’m suing the Biden Administration because people’s rights are being limited,” Fried said of her lawsuit. “Medical marijuana is legal. Guns are legal. This is about people’s rights and their freedoms to responsibly have both.”
The move could be evidence that bleak electoral prospects and shifts in public opinion on guns are starting to affect some Democrats running for office.
Fried was pilloried on Twitter following the announcement of her suit by other progressives. But as many politicians have had to learn in recent years, Twitter is not real life. And the fact of the matter is, voters in real life have become more receptive to gun rights.
Multiple polls dating back to November 2021 have shown that registered voters currently prefer Republicans over Democrats on the issue of gun policy. Due to the ideological sorting between the two parties on the issue of guns in our current era, that essentially amounts to a statement against gun control.
And indeed, several other polls have found that sentiment to be accurate among voters in more explicit terms. A November Gallup poll found Americans’ support for stricter gun control was at its lowest level since 2014. Likewise, a Quinnipiac poll from the same time period found more Americans say they oppose gun control than support it. And just last month, a survey conducted by the University of Chicago confirmed that the surge in pandemic first-time gun buyers carried with it a surge in new gun owners who support liberalizing gun laws.
It should come as no surprise then that at least some Democratic politicians would start to read the room and soften their stance on gun control. This is especially true given the electoral momentum currently behind Republicans heading into election season.
The significance of the shift should not be overstated, however. While herself a progressive Democrat, Fried is seeking to unseat a relatively popular incumbent Republican governor in a state that has trended red over the last several years. Her suit could easily be interpreted as a campaign tactic to appeal to pro-gun moderates while still trying to hold on to her progressive bona fides by tying the suit to liberalized marijuana policy. It’s unlikely that Fried will soon adopt a broader pro-gun stance.
In fact, her suit itself made clear that she still generally supports gun-control policies.
“The Plaintiffs do not challenge the United States’ right to enact reasonable gun regulations that protect the public,” the suit reads. “In fact, the Plaintiffs are all strong advocates for reasonable gun regulations that keep firearms out of the hands of those who cannot safely possess them.”
Nevertheless, it is still noteworthy that a progressive Democrat who enjoys endorsements and financial support from Everytown for Gun Safety would file a Second Amendment lawsuit against a sitting Democratic presidential administration. This is especially true given the timing of the suit. It was filed just one week after President Biden delivered gun-control activists a big win by nominating a new permanent ATF director and releasing his administration’s new “ghost gun” kit ban.
Fried tying the Second Amendment suit to another cause typically favored by progressives could provide a model for other vulnerable Democrats to follow. Whether they decide to follow her lead could significantly impact the outcome of the midterm elections.