In case you missed it, voters in Washington easily approved a ballot measure to require universal background checks for all gun purchases, including at gun shows or by Internet.
Washington state’s vote was the clearest electoral test yet beyond Congress for the gun reform movement that rose out of the devastation at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago. Everytown for Gun Safety, backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and Americans for Responsible Solutions, founded by former congresswoman and mass shooting survivor Gabrielle Giffords, both devoted major funds and other strategic assets to the fight. The primary stated goal of these groups is to function as a formidable counterweight to the National Rifle Association and its political influence; if the passage of I-594 (as well as the defeat of a counter initiative) is any indication, they’ve gained some serious momentum in their less than 24 months of existence. Everytown now has 2.5 million supporters, according to the organization’s former executive director Mark Glaze. “The movement now has plenty of money and plenty of talent, and that’s a big difference from just a few years ago,” Glaze told me on Wednesday. “As the NRA will tell you, intensity trumps money much of the time. In this case they lost on both counts.”
The NRA and its allies also spent millions on the fight—and feared the outcome they now face. “We are very concerned that [Bloomberg’s group] will replicate this and we will have ballot initiatives like this one across the country,” a NRA spokesperson told the Olympian just prior to the vote.
The NRA has evolved from an organization that held safety paramount to a group that views any regulation of guns, however sensible, as a threat to gun sales. Regulation is constitutional. It is also prudent. Said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray:
… states with expanded background checks—now 18 of them, plus Washington, DC—have fewer women killed in domestic-violence situations, fewer law enforcement officers shot, and fewer suicides with firearms.
It is a given in Arkansas political life now that guns are untouchable. You must brandish them in advertising and decry anyone who’d express sympathy for any sort of limitation. The NRA-beloved Mike Ross was hammered for once saying he thought limits on expanded ammo magazines might be a good idea following one of the mass shootings. Pat Hays, a concealed carry permit holder, hunter and NRA member, was the object of a giant NRA ad buy because he participated in Bloomberg’s mayoral initiative.
Political wisdom notwithstanding, there’s more sensible thinking about guns in Arkansas than you might imagine. Look at the Arkansas Poll, which, by the way, was on the money on election outcomes. A solid third would like stricter measures. Another 40 percent like things the way they are (no need to think the majority is clamoring for open carry, in other words.) Framed properly and without overreach, as Washington’s universal background check law was framed, I think you’d find support even in Arkansas for the idea that we shouldn’t have a gaping loophole to avoid background checks. The Arkansas Poll summary below in the last two years differentiates on responses from all respondents and (parenthesis) very likely voters.