November 5, 2014
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In Republican Wave Election, Gun Violence Prevention Still a Winning Issue

Candidates who proudly championed gun violence prevention measures prevail in tough races across the country

Washington, DC−During a wave election in which Republicans strengthened their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and took control of U.S. Senate, the issue of gun violence prevention nonetheless proved to be a winning issue in tightly-contested races across the country.

The biggest win came in the state of Washington, where voters approved the I-594 referendum, which will institute universal background checks on all private sales of firearms.  A competing referendum which was sponsored and funded by the gun lobby, I-591, was defeated.  The Seattle Times described this result as “a historic moment for Washington voters” that “reveal[ed] the true strength of opposition to reasonable gun control.”  I-594 was the only gun violence prevention measure put before voters on a statewide ballot in this election, and likely will serve as model for future campaigns.

Those who championed stronger gun laws in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school also fared well in the election.  Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy prevailed in a close race with Republican challenger Tom Foley despite dissatisfaction with the state’s economy.   As the New York Times noted, “[Malloy’s] stature grew after the mass shooting at a Newtown…which prompted him to seek and sign a gun control bill in 2013 that banned many models of assault-style weapons and large ammunition magazines as well as required background checks.”

Also emerging victorious was Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who also signed historic gun violence prevention legislation into law following the Newtown tragedy.  Hickenlooper faced fierce opposition from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which ran ads claiming he had supported “radical gun policy.”

Meanwhile, Red state Democrats who received A-ratings from the NRA fared poorly.  Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, who voted against expanding background checks following the Newtown massacre, was soundly defeated by Republican challenger Tom Cotton, who received the NRA’s endorsement despite Pryor’s fealty.  Alaska Senator Mark Begich, who also voted against background checks, is currently losing to Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by a count of 49%-45% with 100% of precincts reporting.   In the House of Representatives, Georgia incumbent John Barrow was endorsed by the NRA, but still lost resoundingly to Republican Rick Allen.

“The writing is on the wall for Democrats who think they can benefit from getting in bed with the NRA,” said executive director Josh Horwitz.  “Your service to the gun lobby will get you absolutely nothing.  And it will cost you base voters who are absolutely critical, particularly in midterm elections.”

As former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum observed, “It was not only President Obama and his Democrats who suffered a historic rebuke yesterday.  So did the National Rifle Association.”  The 2014 election reinforced the image of the vaunted NRA as a paper tiger, unable to muster real support among American voters no matter how much money it spends or fearmongering it engages in.

“When politicians stand up for strong gun violence prevention laws, and when people are given a chance to vote on this issue directly, common-sense wins,” said Horwitz.  “The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence now looks confidently forward to 2016, when conditions will be far more favorable to voters eager to protect their communities from the scourge of gun violence.”

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.

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