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Mass Shootings Can Be a Major Issue in 2024. Just Keep it Simple.
There will be many contentious issues rising to the top of election debates in 2024. The issue of mass shootings and a call for a revived assault weapons ban could be at the top of them.
Charles D. Ellison | Publisher’s Riff
There will be many topics opposing parties and candidates will vigorously compete on next year in 2024: The state of the economy. Inflation. Jobs. Immigration. Climate crisis will come up. Abortion will be a big one. These fights will be contentious and, in most cases, downright ugly. One other fight that could be just as fiery: mass shootings, particularly in the wake of this very sudden tragedy in Maine that’s left 18 innocent people dead and over a dozen injured.
At the moment, it seems that Democrats are losing the debate ground on most issues as they are unable to push back against a nasty, but effective Republican media industrial complex. For example, its just been announced that the economy has grown by an astounding 4.9 percent …
… despite polarization and near government shutdowns in Washington coupled with rising geopolitical risk. This all validates President Biden’s “Bidenomics” approach to rebounding and maintaining a strong economy through investments such as the Inflation Reduction Act and other major pieces of legislation. Yet, American voters in recent polling, inexplicably, give Trump higher ratings on managing the economy than Biden …
Unless this is just pollsters playing games.
A big part of the problem is Democratic strategists inability to construct simplistic narratives and messaging that immediately connects with voters. There is, once again, an assumption that most voters can understand and untangle complex policy topics when they cannot. In contrast, Republicans are able to weave a variety of nonsensical claims into policy platforms that suddenly become strong enough to either attract just enough voters to win decisive elections or to heavily discourage enough of the marginalized voters that Democrats need to win those same elections. Republicans are very skilled at constant repetition, even if their claims aren’t backed by data or result in the deterioration of essential democratic institutions and norms.
One very emotional issue where Democrats should attempt to connect boldly and simplistically on is the issue of gun violence and mass shootings. We’ve just recently been exposed to yet another horrific mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine that could have been prevented with the most sensible and aggressive of gun laws. One simple solution could be a nationwide federal assault weapons ban, an outright prohibition on the marketing, distribution and sale of assault weapons and other military-style weapons to civilians.
Interestingly enough, it was a Fox News poll (of all polls, right?) showing overwhelming public support for an assault weapons ban …
Do most Americans remember or know that we’ve already had an assault weapons ban? Indeed, we did, and during his years as a Senator, Biden was one of its key architects. It was pushed by President Bill Clinton and enacted for 10 years between 1994 - 2004. Despite high civilian gun ownership and challenges with violent crime rates, that assault weapons ban was still fairly successful, as research shows …
As NYU’s Michael J. Klein concludes …
Nonetheless, according to our study, President Biden’s claim that the rate of mass shootings during the period of the assault weapons ban “went down” only for it to rise again after the law was allowed to expire in 2004 holds true.
As the U.S. looks toward a solution to the country’s epidemic of mass shootings, it is difficult to say conclusively that reinstating the assault weapons ban would have a profound impact, especially given the growth in sales in the 18 years in which Americans have been allowed to purchase and stockpile such weapons. But given that many of the high-profile mass shooters in recent years purchased their weapons less than one year before committing their acts, the evidence suggests that it might.
These are important pieces of data. Not only is their resounding proof that assault weapons bans work, but they also save quite a few lives in the process … which is the ultimate goal. Also important is the fact that assault weapons ownership is not something we should support or encourage at a time of increasing political polarization. That is a recipe for instability and fully-engaged civil war.
Heading into 2024, Democrats could transform this into one of their top commanding issues: Being the party that once before put a lid on mass shootings (“We’re the party that reduced mass shootings by 43 percent when our assault weapons ban was in effect. Republicans are the party that increased mass shootings by 245 percent when they let it expire. The numbers don’t lie: Democrats keep you safer”). The punch lines can’t be too academic. They will need to offer a sense a urgency. They will need to find resonance with voters in a way where they immediately understand and connect. There will be a need for Democrats to keep the conversation from getting too complicated and to rely on constant repetition, repetition, repetition of the same resonant chord over and over again. That will be key. Let voters know that “an assault weapons ban can save America.” Voters can be motivated on this issue, Republicans can be overrun on it. It can be an issue Democrats can, first, win on in 2024 and then legislate on shortly thereafter.