The Michigan proposals — as well as another gun-related bill signed into law Thursday by Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) — serve as the latest reminder that tea party conservatives remain a vigorous force in statehouses across the country, even as they lost seats and influence in Washington following the November elections.
But Snyder’s decision to reject the concealed-weapon measure also underscores the limits of tea party legislation, which often fires up the conservative base while alienating mainstream voters. This is especially true when an issue such as gun control is suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, as it has in the wake of the Newtown shootings.
Republican-led state legislatures have
approved more than four dozen measures over the past two years loosening restrictions on firearms, according to a Washington Post tally of data compiled by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which favors stricter gun regulations. They include a Maine provision allowing guns in state parks and a repeal of Virginia’s law limiting handgun purchases to one per month.
In Ohio, the new law allows guns in cars in the state House of Representatives parking garage. Since the Newtown slayings, lawmakers in several states have proposed allowing teachers and school administrators to be armed.
Many of the measures have been drafted by lobbying groups such as the National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council. Both campaigned for passage of so-called “stand your ground” laws, which came under scrutiny earlier this year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in Florida.
“There’s been some losses, and then there’s been some defensive victories and then a smattering of actual victories,” said Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Law Center.
The recent flurry of bills in Michigan has captured headlines in part because the conservative measures emerged from such a deep-blue union stronghold, where President Obama won by nine points and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) was reelected by more than 20.
Republicans took over the Michigan legislature and governor’s office in 2010, part of the conservative tea party wave that washed over Congress and state governments around the country. Republicans gained further ground in the states this past November and are poised to control both the legislature and the governorship in 24 states in January, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.