The Reload Analysis Newsletter

Members’ Newsletter: Has the Politics of Guns Changed Ahead of the Midterms?

This week we’re taking another look at the politics of guns. A few months ago, things were trending in the pro-gun direction. Polling showed support for new restrictions flounder, we’d just come through two years of record gun sales, and Americans were generally unhappy with how President Joe Biden was handling the issue.

Since then, though, the gun-control movement has picked up steam. Propelled by a string of horrific shootings culminating in the massacre of school children in Uvalde, Texas, support for gun control rose, and the first new federal restrictions on guns in decades passed. Then the House went a step further and passed the first “assault weapons” ban since 1994.

Contributing Writer Jake Fogelman takes a look at whether this recent momentum will carry into the midterm elections or if we’ve already seen the peak.

We also have some exclusive reporting on the fight over California’s gun laws. California Rifle and Pistol Association President Chuck Michel argues the deluge of new restrictions passed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Bruen ruling is a deliberate strategy to stretch gun-rights groups thin in court. He said the bills are being pushed through at an incredible pace without consideration for their constitutionality or unintended consequences, such as the recent shutdown of youth shooting sports leagues throughout the state.

Plus, Walk The Talk America’s Micahel Sodini joins the podcast to talk about how we can reduce the number of gun suicides.

Moms Demand Action protesters
Moms Demand Action protesters / Stephen Gutowski

Analysis: Gun Control and the Midterms. Have the Political Winds Changed? [Member Exclusive]
By Jake Fogleman

At the beginning of this year, gun-control proponents appeared to be in a bit of a tough spot with the general public. We had just come off of a two-year period of sustained record-level gun sales, including explosive growth in the number of first-time gun owners. Numerous polls routinely showed a cratering in support for new gun control laws.

But then came the Buffalo shooting. And shortly after came the horror in Uvalde. These events were jarring enough to reverse the year-over-year trend of declining support for new gun laws in the polls. They also ultimately prompted the passage and signing of the first major federal gun legislation in decades, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Finally, defying all expectations, the House of Representatives ended up voting on and passing the first federal “assault weapons” ban bill in nearly three decades.

That’s certainly a major shift in political tailwinds for the issue. But does that now mean that gun control is an issue with momentum and political salience for voters heading into the midterms?

The answer is probably not. At least for now.

To begin with, even though the passage of an assault weapons ban through the House is a significant development, its days as a high-profile piece of legislation are bound to be short-lived due to lack of Republican support in an evenly divided Senate.

The President is reportedly attempting to cajole top Democratic Senators into acting on the bill, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D.) hasn’t even mentioned whether or not he would bring the bill to the floor. He certainly knows the bill has no shot of achieving the requisite support of at least 10 Republicans to pass. The death of such a big achievement for gun-control advocates is likely to blunt some of the momentum on their side as of late.

Additionally, the most recent public polling also seems to indicate the public appetite for new gun control that seemed to spike in the early summer has been blunted somewhat among voters. A Fox News poll released Thursday finds that while generic ballot polling continues to show a narrowing between Republicans and Democrats—something that has been a sustained shift, largely due to abortion politics—the salience of guns has started to wane among voters.

Only seven percent of voters listed guns as their top election issue, down from twelve percent in June when Fox conducted the same polling. Another poll conducted by The Economist/YouGov during the same time period also found a similar response from voters, with six percent saying guns were their most important issue.

Additionally, voters overall once again say they give Republicans the advantage on guns over Democrats by three percent, according to the Fox poll. That represents a six-point swing from June, in the immediate aftermath of two mass shootings, when Fox found a three-point advantage for Democrats. Among just independent voters, pollsters reported a 21-point advantage for Republicans on the issue.

A six-point swing toward Republicans among voters broadly, anchored by a 21-point advantage among independents, is a positive sign for opponents of gun control. This swing to the GOP on guns occurred despite a major shift among voters toward Democrats on the issue of abortion, suggesting the results were not simply the result of a conservative-leaning sample. That bodes well for gun rights proponents heading into November’s elections.

“The issue climate remains extremely favorable to the GOP,” Pollster Daron Shaw told Fox News. “The introduction of the abortion issue through the Dobbs decision means it may be ‘less terrible’ for the Democrats, but the main question continues to be whether Republicans can capitalize on their good fortune or whether they squander their advantage.”

To be clear, the results of a couple of polls are by no means a guarantee of changes among voters overall. And there are undoubtedly pockets of the country where gun control is bound to play a large role in the midterm elections regardless of what any public polling says.

In Oregon, for example, activists successfully got a sweeping gun-control initiative on the ballot for this November. Voters will be able to directly decide whether or not they want to pass a ban on magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, a permit-to-purchase requirement for all future gun sales, and an associated electronic database of all permit-holders that will function like a state registry.

But while Oregon’s blue-state reputation would seem to guarantee that such a measure will pass, gun control ballot measures are often less successful in blue states than outside observers might assume. The measure could ultimately be a decent barometer for how salient the issue is among voters by the time November rolls around.

For now, it looks like a combination of time and the political liability associated with aggressive gun-control policies, such as banning the sale of the popular AR-15, have started to blunt the momentum gained by gun-control politics in the last few months.

Podcast: How to Prevent Gun Suicides with Walk The Talk America [Member Early Access]
By Stephen Gutowski

About two-thirds of gun deaths each year are suicides. It’s an incredible challenge facing the gun-owning community. It’s also one they’ve begun organizing to address.

One person leading that effort is Michael Sodini of Walk The Talk America. He joins the show this week to discuss how the industry and gun owners alike have partnered with mental health professionals to try and reduce the number of gun suicides each year.

Sodini said explained the way the program came about and how it fills an important gap. When he first attempted to use the resources of his gun distribution company to fund a mental health intervention program for gun owners, he found there was nothing in place. So, he helped form Walk The Talk America to develop a program by gun owners and for gun owners.

He said destigmatizing seeking mental health resources is an important way to help gun owners struggling with suicidal ideation. One key part of doing that is ensuring people that they can reach out for help without having to worry about losing their firearms. Often that’s one key reason gun owners are hesitant.

That’s why Walk The Talk America works directly with mental health professionals to help them better understand how to reach out to gun owners without alienating them. They have also started a network of approved providers who have experience working with gun owners. They’ve begun connecting those in crisis with those trained and able to help.

Sodini said the issue is one that the community needs to take seriously and do more to address. He lost a friend to gun suicide and knows exactly how devastating it can be. I, unfortunately, can say the same.

The more gun owners can do to look out for each other, the fewer we will lose to suicide. That’s the key takeaway, according to Sodini.

Plus, Contributing Writer Jake Fogleman and I discuss how a new California gun law is dashing the dreams of a young female Olympic hopeful. And we talk a bit about my girlfriend’s search for a concealed carry gun and Jake’s own carry gun update.

You can listen to the show on your favorite podcasting app once it goes public on Monday. Reload members can listen to the full show on Sunday by clicking here or watching video of it on our YouTube channel.

Make an Appearance on the Podcast

One of the many perks of a Reload membership is the opportunity to appear on the podcast for a special segment. If you’re interested in joining me, simply reply to this email. We’d love to have you on!

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) giving a speech
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) giving a speech / Photo by Jorge Maya on Unsplash

California Rifle and Pistol Association President on Governor Newsom’s ‘Everything on the Table’ Strategy [Member Exclusive]
By Stephen Gutowski

As California enacts a myriad of new gun restrictions, one gun-rights leader in the state sees the deluge as a strategy.

Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), told The Reload the collection of new gun laws is a deliberate attempt by Governor Gavin Newsom (D.) to overwhelm opponents. He said it was part of a “blue resistance” campaign against the new paradigm created by the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. Instead of passing laws to comply with the Court’s opinion, states like New York and California are flooding the zone with new restrictions that flout it.

“I think Newsom is on the warpath,” Michel told The Reload. “He’s just such a vindictive, sore loser. I mean, he’s passing stuff he couldn’t give two craps if it’s constitutional or not. He just doesn’t care about anything. He is passing everything to try and stretch us so thin we can’t keep up.”

CRPA now has nearly a dozen active cases against California’s gun laws, a number which has ballooned since Bruen was handed down. The number only grows when considered cases filed by other gun-rights groups such as the Firearms Policy Coalition, Gun Owners of America, and Second Amendment Foundation.

Governor Newsom did not respond to a request for comment. However, he has openly talked about imposing new restrictions as a way of bucking the Supreme Court’s directive on gun laws. While announcing a ban on gun advertising that could appeal to minors, which has resulted in a statewide shutdown of youth shooting sports, he was clear about his motivations.

“As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives,” he said in a press release. “The lives of our kids are at stake and we’re putting everything on the table to respond to this crisis.”

Michel, whose group has filed suit against the ad ban, said it is a good example of the haphazard nature of the new gun restrictions.

“It’s a catastrophe, and that’s what it was meant to be,” he said.

He said he didn’t believe Governor Newsom’s claim the law wasn’t intended to affect youth shooting sports. Michel argued disrupting youth shooting leagues fits with the governor’s overall goals when it comes to firearms.

“Newsom knew what he was doing and didn’t give a crap because he said many times that his goal is to eliminate gun culture,” he said. “That’s why he goes after gun shows, gun stores, ranges, anything where gun owners congregate and talk about guns and gun safety and gun politics. He doesn’t want those forums to exist. He doesn’t want there to be any platforms for developing relationships around the shooting sports or self-defense or the Second Amendment. He wants this generation of gun owners and those who participate in the shooting sports to be the last.”

He said the new copycat gun bounty law California passed as a form of protest against a similar abortion law in Texas is another example of a poorly thought out gun law. And it isn’t going to be the only questionable copy coming to the state, Michel said. California is moving to adopt broad new restrictions on where licensed gun carriers can legally conceal their firearms which mirror New York’s recent laws.

That will create a situation where Californians, like New Yorkers, face more restrictions on their ability to carry a gun after the Supreme Court declared doing so a right. It’s a situation liberal lawmakers are betting will last.

“Their strategy is they hope that the courts, particularly the Ninth Circuit, will bend over backwards, just like they did after Heller, to interpret the Bruen case very, very, very narrowly,” Michel said. “So that way, most of their laws will still be upheld. They’re going to argue that, ‘hey, you said we don’t have to allow guns in sensitive places. We’re just designating more places sensitive.’”

He argued there was good reason for lawmakers like Newsom to try this strategy. Countering it will likely require relatively quick action from the Supreme Court. After the landmark Heller ruling in 2008, the Court was reluctant to take gun cases. It didn’t hand down a significant update to its Second Amendment jurisprudence until this year.

“These questions came up, and the Supreme Court didn’t answer them for 14 years,” Michel said. “That’s what they’re counting on.”

But he said CRPA is up to the task of challenging all of these new laws. And he expects Newsom’s strategy won’t pay off this time around.

“It’s a different court now,” Michel said.

That’s it for now.

I’ll talk to you all again soon.

Stephen Gutowski
The Reload

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