I am tired of correcting Joe Scarborough. Nearly every day, Joe Scarborough gets on the air, or Twitter, or writes a Washington Post column claiming that Democrats are losing elections because they’re not “pro-gun” enough. Well, Joe ― and everyone else who likes to peddle this falsehood ― do I have some morning java for you. Not only is gun violence prevention supported by a majority of Americans from both parties, but it is also a winning issue.
Just last week, Pew Research Center’s new polling came out showing that 84 percent of Americans believe background checks should be required for private gun sales and sales at gun shows. And lo and behold, just 19 percent of gun owners reported being members of the NRA.
That debunks Joe’s recent tweets to me about the need for Democratic candidates to be more “culturally sensitive” to local issues when campaigning. In other words, Democrats lost the election because they were too vocal about their support for gun safety.
But the new Pew data argues that candidates and their campaigns should be more “culturally sensitive” to the reality of gun violence in America, and stop using shooting tragedies for political gain. Nearly half of respondents to the Pew poll said that they knew someone who had been shot. That’s a sobering reminder of the devastating toll our lax gun laws take on American families.
This new data shows that the all-powerful gun lobby (and maybe Joe Scarborough) are out of step with everyday Americans ― including gun owners. Pew’s results demonstrated that nearly eight in ten gun owners ― 77 percent of the gun owners surveyed ― supported requiring background checks on private sales and at gun shows. That figure includes a full 70 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning gun owners surveyed.
Voters support gun safety. And the message is starting to break through. Look at Jason Kander in Missouri; he took the gun lobby head on by supporting background checks on all gun sales and showing strong support for the Second Amendment in the Senate race. He narrowly lost to incumbent Roy Blunt, but he performed better than any other Democrat running statewide in Missouri last year despite putting his position on gun safety front and center in the race. In Virginia, the gubernatorial primary candidates were competing over who was more pro-gun safety. That wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.
Yet the gun lobby continues to push dangerous laws across the country. One of their pet projects is “permitless carry,” legislation that would let people carry hidden, loaded weapons in public without a permit or safety training (even people with violent records). That’s why it was telling to see that 81 percent of poll respondents opposed allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit. With that level of public opposition, it’s no surprise that of the 28 states in which “permitless carry” bills have been introduced this year, the proposal only passed in two. And it’s no surprise that smart governors from both sides of the aisle vetoed this dangerous policy ― Governor Bullock in Montana and Governor Daugaard in South Dakota.
So given the new polling showing that Americans support gun safety and aren’t aligned with the NRA, why does Joe Scarborough believe candidates need a high rating from the NRA to win? An A-rating from the NRA signifies a candidate supports the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda of rejecting background checks, arming abusers, and supporting open and permitless carry. That high rating may earn you support from certain members of Congress, but not from your constituents.
That’s in part because of the work Moms Demand Action volunteers and survivors of gun violence who are showing up at statehouses, candidate events, town halls and debates, putting gun violence prevention on the forefront. It’s even happening in the state that Joe once represented in Congress, Florida, where Moms Demand Action volunteers, survivors, and state representatives ― Republican and Democrat ― all worked together to once again stop the gun lobby’s agenda this year.
Gun violence isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue; it is a uniquely American problem that affects all of us, regardless of party affiliation. That’s why it requires solutions at all levels of government. And it requires political candidates to make eradicating gun violence a major part of their policy platforms.
There are many reasons Democrats lost the special elections, but the Pew poll results are yet another piece of proof that the NRA’s dystopian vision for this country is unpopular with the American public writ-large. Our elected officials would be wise to listen to their constituents and law enforcement voices when it comes to critical public safety issues – not to Joe Scarborough.