‘Extinction in the Suburbs’: Is the GOP Losing the Gun Debate — and Voters?
After the latest mass shooting in the country with by far the most mass shootings, Republicans are sounding the alarm that opposition to stricter gun regulations is losing the party votes from suburban women and college graduates — which could prove costly in 2020.
“Republicans are headed for extinction in the suburbs if they don’t distance themselves from the NRA.”
“Republicans are headed for extinction in the suburbs if they don’t distance themselves from the NRA. The GOP needs to put forth solutions to help eradicate the gun violence epidemic,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and big supporter of President Donald Trump, said in an interview with Bloomberg.
Just last year, Eberhart was having lunch with then-Florida Governor Rick Scott when news first broke about the massacre at Parkland, Florida, high school Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where 17 people were gunned down by a former student in the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.
Just 18 months later, the country is reeling from two more mass shootings, one in El Paso, Texas, and another in Dayton, Ohio. In El Paso, 20 people were killed and dozens injured. Less than 24 hours later, nine were killed and several others wounded in Dayton.
Eberhart told Bloomberg it’s time to join Democrats and the majority of Americans who want to ban weapons like the AR-15 (pictured below), which is often the weapon of choice for mass shooters.
“The GOP needs to make several moves such as universal background checks, eliminating loopholes and banning military-style assault weapons to neutralize the issue,” he said. “Otherwise, Republicans will lose suburban voters just like they did in the midterms on health care.”
Gun maker stocks of course rose after the weekend’s shootings, but have come back down a bit today.
While Democrats are calling for universal background checks and a renewal of the assault-weapons ban that expired in 2004, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., cut a deal Monday with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on “red flag” legislation that would help states keep guns out of the hands of people found to be an imminent risk of violence.
In 2018, Republicans were knocked out of the House majority, mostly over healthcare, but also over inaction on gun control.
Voters in 2018 favored stricter gun control by a margin of 22 percentage points, and those who did backed Democrats by a margin of 76% to 22%, according to exit polls. Gun policy ranked as the No. 4 concern, and voters who cited it as their top issue voted for Democrats by a margin of 70% to 29%.
And things have changed even more since then as there have been 255 mass shootings so far in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which are incidents where four or more people are shot or killed, excluding the shooter.
All major Democratic candidates in the 2020 primary will run on gun control measures, including tougher background checks and a ban on so-called “assault-style” weapons like the AR-15, which could put them in direct opposition to Trump.
“Every time the country experiences a tragedy of this nature the Republican brand takes a hit,” Carlos Curbelo told Bloomberg. Curbelo is a former Republican congressman who lost his Miami-area district to a Democrat in 2018. “Because many, many Americans perceive that Republicans are unwilling to act on gun reform, due to the influence of the NRA and other organizations.
“Certainly in swing suburban districts there is broad support for” stricter gun control policies, Curbelo said. “A lot of voters, especially young voters, have lost their patience with this issue.”
NPR and PBS commissioned a Marist poll last month that showed 57% of adults in the U.S. support banning “the sale of semi-automatic assault guns such as the AK-47 or the AR-15,” while 41% oppose it — which is a strong majority in favor of stricter laws.
In the suburbs, where the Republicans fear they could lose the most votes on the issue, support for new bans reaches 62%, and a staggering 74% among women in suburbs and small cities, and 65% among white college graduates.
Of course, among Trump’s base, 67% among Republicans, 65% among white men without college degrees and 51% of rural Americans oppose stricter laws.
Trump, meanwhile, has blamed the internet, social media and video games (which there’s zero evidence of) for inciting violence, while saying easy access to guns isn’t the problem.
“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Editor’s note: Share your thoughts and possible solutions on this sensitive issue that affects all Americans, including law-abiding gun owners and those calling for more regulation, below.