The Democrats’ failure to secure gun control measures in the Senate is seen as a big victory for the GOP and gun rights groups. But in the long run, the ongoing battle over weapons regulations could play a part in the next presidential race.
President Barack Obama and supporters of measures such as universal background checks and assault weapons bans have vowed to fight on, and some political observers see the Senate’s vote as a game-changer for the Republicans.
But a quick look at states that have aggressive gun control measures already in place show that part of the math in 2016 could favor the Democrats.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence keeps its own scorecard of states that have significant gun laws on their books. It says 19 states get at least a one-star rating from the group, while 31 states earn zero stars, with few or no gun control laws.
Those 19 states, with the addition of the District of Columbia, account for 271 electoral votes; 270 electoral votes are needed to win a presidential election.
At least one state in that group, Alabama, wouldn’t likely back a Democratic presidential candidate. But three swing states—Ohio, Iowa, and New Hampshire—aren’t yet in the Brady Campaign’s top 19 list.
If several of those states were to show wider public support for stricter gun measures, the issue could be one of the hot topics in the 2016 campaign.
Already, big states that control large chunks of electoral votes have strong state gun laws on their books. California has the strictest gun control measures in the country, according to the Brady Campaign, followed by New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Three other big states have aggressive gun laws: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. Other states with gun measures include North Carolina and Virginia, which are two large swing states.
The debate over gun laws probably won’t go away over the next four years, and potential candidates were already taking sides on the issue as soon as this January.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is set to sign one of the toughest state gun control laws in the country, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has touted his state’s record.
Republicans Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul aggressively campaigned against background check expansion in the Senate.
The Democratic candidates will likely argue that polling data suggests a vast amount of Americans support universal background checks, and the failure of Congress to act is a sign of a broken system.
GOP candidates will argue that most Americans support the Second Amendment right to own guns, and they have no problem with responsible laws that don’t infringe on those rights.
In any event, it doesn’t seem like gun control and gun rights will fade away as issues in the next few years.
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