By Sam Bocetta
2018 has been notable for many reasons in regards to the political landscape, but something very notable about this election cycle is how gun control has taken center stage to the point that it’s become a chief focal point of many campaigns for local, state, and Federal offices.
The reason for this is simple: the push for gun control is much stronger this year than it has been in years previously. Whereas guns used to be a ‘side issue’ so to say, now they are undoubtedly a front and center issue for the 2018 midterms.
But the real question is this: since gun control is now officially one of the hottest political topics in the political arena, what is likely to happen concerning the issue once the midterms are over and we have a new Congress in January?
How Guns Are Now A Major Issue
Previously, campaigning for gun control would be a death sentence for any political party in an election year.
When the Federal Assault Weapons Ban passed under Democratic leadership in 1994, for example, Republicans completely dominated the ’94 midterms, and most analysts agreed that the ban played a direct contributing factor. Some even argue that the ban could have cost then Vice President Al Gore critical votes in his failed attempt to win the White House in 2000.
But now, times are changing. Not only has the amount of gun control-related advertisements surged this year, but the number of actually ads in favor of gun control consist of about 60% of the total. In contrast, only around 10% of ads were pro gun control back in the 2014 midterms, which the Republicans won decisively.
Now why does this matter? For two primary reasons:
- As was noted previously in the introductions, guns are no longer a side line issue, and campaigning in favor of gun control may actually be a benefit for certain candidates rather than work against them.
- If pro-gun control candidates are elected in large numbers throughout the country, it seems likelier that further action will be taken on guns from the Federal government and state governments.
What Is The Current State of the House and Senate Races?
As of now, it is looking increasingly likely that the Democrats will win control of the House while the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, based on current polls and projections.
Of course, this doesn’t at all mean that that’s what will happen. Polls consistently showed President Trump behind in the 2016 race against Secretary Clinton, only to win several states that he had been projected to lose like Pennsylvania and Michigan.
In other words, it’s entirely possible that Democrats will win both houses of Congress or that Republicans will maintain control of both.
But for the sake of the argument, let’s assume that the polls will be mostly correct and the Democrats end up winning a small majority in the House and the Republicans maintain their control over the Senate.
If so, what happens then?
Gun Control After The Midterms
What would happen in regards to guns if the Republicans controlled the Senate and the Democrats the House?
You may be quick to say ‘nothing,’ because even if the House were to pass a number of bills regulating guns further, they could easily be stopped either in the Senate or on President Trump’s desk by the way of Presidential Veto.
Maybe that’s what would happen, but we shouldn’t forget a few other things either: even though he’s a Republican, President Trump can’t be considered a guarantee that he won’t support certain gun control measures. He called for the Justice Department to reclassify bump stocks as machine guns earlier this year to effectively make them illegal.
Furthermore, both the House and Senate this year passed the Fix NICS Act, which applied penalties to government agencies for failing to report to the NICS Background Check following the Sutherland Springs Shooting.
In other words, while Republicans can campaign on being pro-gun rights all they want, that doesn’t mean that they will be automatic ‘no’s’ to gun control bills.
Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also recently stated that expanding background checks would be a top priority for the Democrats should they indeed win control in the House, while also stating that an assault weapons ban may not be as realistic should the GOP keep control the Senate.
It’s hardly the first time that Pelosi has pushed for gun control, but her comments do clearly indicate that a gun control push will be very high on the Democratic agenda, especially under extreme pressure from a wave of pro-gun control public activism that has swept the nation this year.
This isn’t to say that concealed carry rights or handguns would necessarily be threatened in the short term, but it is to say that a renewed push for an assault weapons ban, bans on so-called ‘high capacity’ magazines, and especially universal background checks can be expected.
What can we conclude from all this?
Simple: even though we cannot predict the future, we can definitely say that guns will certainly be on the agenda for the next session of Congress should the Democrats win the House of Representatives and especially if they manage to pull off taking control of the Senate.
Should this happen, a push for universal background checks and potentially for assault weapons and large magazines bans would be very high on the Democratic agenda…and it can’t be guaranteed that we can count on the votes of certain Republican politicians or votes of certain Republican politicians or even on President Trump to veto any of those measures should they pass either.