Congress did nothing after Sandy Hook. It seemed that even the slaughter of innocent children by weapons of war wasn’t enough to pressure conservatives to address the gun violence plaguing our nation. After the deadliest mass shooting in our history in Las Vegas, outrage once again translated into absolutely no change to our gun laws. Zero. Many activists and concerned citizens concluded that the gun lobby was so entrenched in Washington that no mass shooting, no matter how catastrophic or outrageous, would be enough to push politicians to stop prostituting themselves to the NRA for campaign cash.
And yet, after the latest tragedy in Florida the tide might possibly be turning.
For starters, high profile GOP backers are becoming sufficiently repulsed by gun violence and legislative inaction to pull their funding from GOP candidates. Al Hoffman, Jr., a Bush family friend and major supporter of Republicans, vowed after the Florida tragedy that he would not write another check to a Republican who did not support a ban on military style firearms. “It’s the end of the road for me,” he stated. “Enough is enough.”
Peter Rummell, a big Jeb Bush donor from Jacksonville, joined Hoffman’s effort and stated he would only give to Republicans who supported an assault weapons ban. These high-profile donors may not be enough to sway policy on their own but if others join them the GOP will start to feel a kind of pressure it hasn’t felt in years to do something about guns.
In addition, young survivors of the Florida tragedy have been especially vocal in the days following the shootings, speaking out against current laws and excoriating Florida politicians for putting the desires of Florida gun worshipers ahead of the lives of the children politicians swore to protect. Millennials are not as gun crazy as prior generations, and are becoming surprisingly politically active, in part because the diverse world they have grown up in has come under attack by the hard right, personified by extreme fundamentalists like VP Mike Pence. Taking advantage of their discontent, billionaires like Tom Steyer are trying to build a liberal youth vote effort that could be a game-changer in the coming elections.
Finally, groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action have raised a lot of money to combat the NRA. They are years behind in terms of organizing and building activist infrastructure, but they are becoming increasingly effective in fighting back against NRA messaging and spin.
These factors could all combine to turn the corner on gun control at last, and they could also play an important secondary roll in election outcomes favoring liberal causes. One thing has become absolutely clear in recent years. The NRA is a paper tiger, no longer the fearful threat to local politicians it has always pretended to be. Those running against Rep Faso shouldn’t be cowed by a few vocal gun extremists in NY-19. A large and solid majority of Americans support common-sense gun control, here and elsewhere. If gun control can be a winning issue for Democrats in Virginia, the home of the NRA, it can be a winning issue here too.