WASHINGTON — Despite high-profile mass shootings this year and a continuing epidemic of less publicized gun violence, the issue of guns has taken a backseat to other hot-button voter concerns in this midterm election, including abortion, inflation and crime.
That doesn’t mean the gun issue is being ignored. There are hundreds of campaign ads running across the nation, mostly by Republican candidates, that stress the need to protect – and expand – gun rights.
And Iowans will vote on ballot initiative on Nov. 8 that would add gun rights to the state’s constitution. The amendment need as simple majority of vote to pass. Opponents say it would make it more difficult to win approval of new gun control measures and easier to overturn existing gun laws.
Various polls, including one by MinnPost/Embold Research, found substantial support for the expansion of gun laws.
The MinnPost/Embold Research poll asked 1,585 likely Minnesota voters last week “which of the following comes closest to your overall view of gun laws in this country?”
Fifty percent of the respondents agreed that “gun laws should be more strict than they are today.” And 19% agreed that “gun laws should be less strict than they are today.”
Support for stricter gun laws cut across gender, age, racial and geographic divisions. Even rural respondents supported strengthening gun laws, 37%, while 26% said they said the should be less strict.
The only real division was among those who identified as either Republicans or Democrats. Just 9% of those who identified as Republicans agreed with the statement that gun laws should be stricter; 50% said they agreed that “gun laws are about right” and 37% agreed that “gun laws should be less strict than they are today.”
Meanwhile, 91% of those who identified at Democrats agreed with the statement that gun laws should be made stricter.
Bryan Strawser, chairman of the board of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus, said the poll’s result are based on concerns over the number of high-profile shootings this year.
“A lot of folk are aware there have been a lot of gun tragedies lately and wonder ‘what should we do about it?’” Strawser said.
But he said that once individuals become aware of what new gun restrictions would entail, their support of stricter gun laws wanes.
Strawser also said “no matter who controls the state legislature” in Minnesota after November’s election, new state gun control laws will be introduced, including a “Red Flag” bill that would allow authorities to temporarily remove weapons from those considered a danger to themselves or others.
Strawser also predicted that another bill, expanding background checks to those who buy guns at gun shows and over the internet, will also be introduced.
But if Republicans take over control of the state House, Strawser said those bill “will have no chance of passing.” His politically active organization has given Gov. Tim Walz an “F” grade and is skeptical of GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen’s commitment to gun rights.
Since the start of this year, there has been an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Tex., a grocery store shooting in Buffalo N.Y., a 4th of July parade shooting in Highland Park, Ill. and a quiet neighborhood in Raleigh, N.C. There have also been 350 other mass shootings.
Yet fewer Democrats this year are stumping on the issue, with some notable exceptions, including Rep. Val Demings, who is trying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio in Florida.
Democrats may be focusing less on the issue because Congress approved a modest gun bill this year that helps close the “boyfriend loophole,” barring convicted domestic abusers from purchasing a gun for five years; strengthens background checks for those under 21 and allocates funding to support crisis intervention services and states that implement Red Flag laws.
Omar v. McCarthy and vice versa
Earlier this month, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th, teamed up with Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. to produce a digital ad that slams House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on the hot-button issue of crime.
The progressive Democrats are trying to push back on Republican accusations that their party is soft on crime and supports the defunding of police. Meanwhile, the GOP is marketing itself as the party of law and order in these midterms, which McCarthy hopes will catapult him into the position of Speaker of the House.
The ad sponsored by Swalwell and Omar cites a 2021 report that ranks Bakersfield, Calif., a town in McCarthy’s district, No. 10 in a list of the most dangerous cities in the United States. The ad also slams McCarthy for missing a vote on the American Rescue Plan, a bill backed by Democrats that included pandemic relief funds to local police forces. And it accuses Republicans of ignoring “certain crimes,” including the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol and former President Trump’s mishandling of classified documents.
“Everyone can see you are not pro-cop, Kevin McCarthy. You’re pro-coup,” the ad’s voiceover says.
Meanwhile, McCarthy this week reiterated a promise to kick Omar off the House Foreign Relations Committee if he wins the leadership of the U.S. House. He also said he won’t allow Swalwell to serve on the House Intelligence Committee and another California Democrat who was a prominent member of the panel who prosecuted Trump’s impeachment and serves on the Jan. 6 committee – Rep. Adam Schiff – to serve on the intelligence panel either.
Party leaders in the House determine which of their members sit on all of the chamber’s committees. Democratic leaders will have to remove some of their members from those committees if their party loses the majority in the midterm.
But Democrats took an unprecedented step last year to remove a Republican, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, from her committee assignments for endorsing conspiracy theories and promoting violence against Democratic lawmakers. They removed Greene from her committee assignments through a House vote on a resolution that was supported by 11 Republicans.
Democrats later stripped Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from his committee assignments after he posted an anime video showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
Meanwhile, New York Times magazine reported that Greene has warned McCarthy that he needs to give her more “power” and “leeway” to please Republican voters if the party wins control of Congress in November’s elections.
“I think that to be the best Speaker of the House and to please the base, he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway,” Greene said. “And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it. I think that’s the best way to read that.”
McCarthy said he would return both Greene and Gosar to committees if he becomes the leader of the House and that Greene and Gosar would have “better assignments.”
Poll: Latinos say inflation, cost of living top of mind
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) released the results of a tracking poll that showed both distinctions, and similarities among the different groups of Latinos surveyed.
For the sixth consecutive week, Latino voters ranked inflation and the rising cost of living as their most important election issue, at 42%, followed by women’s reproductive and abortion rights, at 29%.
“Notably, Cuban origin voters expressed similar levels of support for protecting DACA recipients,” the poll said, a reference to young, undocumented Latinos who, as children, were brought to this country by their parents and have been given temporary protection from deportation.
Support for making DACA protections permanent was at 82% and passing legislation to guarantee access to abortion was 76% among those of Cuban origin who were polled, despite their having the highest support for Republican candidates for Congress compared to those other Latinos.
The tracking poll also said President Biden continues to have strong and steady favorability among Latino voters, at 59% and Latino voters overall continue to favor Democrats over Republicans in congressional races, by a margin of 56% to 31%.
The sixth week of polling also found Democrats continue to lead in outreach to Latino voters, but half of Latino voters (50%) have yet to be contacted by any candidate or campaign. Of the 50% who said they had been contacted, 62% indicated someone from the Democratic Party contacted them, and 40% indicated it was someone from the Republican Party.
“This week’s results shed critical light on the diversity of views among Latino voters with distinct origins. Latinos of Central American and Cuban origin demonstrate higher Republican support than other Latino origin groups, and also express higher interest in voting this November,” said Arturo Vargas, chief executive Officer of NALEO Educational Fund. “At the same time, we are seeing little progress in outreach to Latino voters — half of whom still have not been contacted by any candidate or campaign. With Latinos poised to play a decisive role in House and Senate races across the country, it is time for both parties to double down on engaging our communities.”