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Gun-control group claims victory at ballot box, in statehouses

Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly (D). (John Hanna/AP)

The gun-control group Everytown claims that 2018 has been one of the most successful years ever for the movement, with candidates who ran as advocates of gun control winning midterm elections, gun safety legislation passing in statehouses and victories in court cases.

In its annual year-in-review memo, Everytown said that 150 of the 196 candidates endorsed by its political arm, the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, in the midterm elections won seats. They include places where gun control has not typically been a galvanizing issue, such as Kansas and Nevada, where Democrats Laura Kelly and Steve Sisolak were elected governors. Democrat Lucy McBath, whose son was killed in a dispute over loud music at a Florida gas station, won a seat in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.

“I think this was the year of gun safety and I think what’s so noteworthy is that Americans have now realized gun safety isn’t a right or left issue, but it’s a life or death issue,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown. “I think they showed that in the fact that voters sent a message at the midterms to their elected leaders, and the message boils down to: Pass laws to keep us safe.”

The group poured huge amounts of money into the midterm elections, with the action fund spending $30 million on contributions, independent expenditures and mobilization for congressional candidates. It also said that it has reached a record number of young voters, part of a mobilization that occurred after a Feb. 14 shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school killed 17 people.

The investment came as the National Rifle Association’s spending plummeted by 68 percent, compared with the 2014 midterm elections.

Suburban Democrats campaign on gun-control policies as NRA spending plummets

Everytown started in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty students and six adults were killed, but legislative movement on guns stalled afterward.

The group said that started to change in 2018, with 20 states passing laws that regulate firearms in some way or aim to reduce gun violence. Among them was a package of legislation in Florida, which has traditionally been an NRA stronghold, that included raising the purchasing age for rifles to 21. It passed after the Parkland shooting. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) also signed a suite of gun-control bills, measures that include banning the possession and sale of rapid-fire attachments known as bump stocks.

Eight states passed laws that allow courts to take guns away from people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others, known as red flag laws. Ten states banned bump stocks. And 12 states made it more difficult for those convicted of domestic abuse or are subject to a restraining order to obtain firearms.

“It is in part the cumulative effect of mass shooting after mass shooting. There’s no doubt I think that Parkland struck a particular chord to parents who said to elected officials: ‘Protect my children,’ ” Feinblatt said.

Gun-control activists have also been in court, with municipalities challenging state laws that prohibit them from passing gun-control legislation. In Missoula, Mont., a judge ruled in favor of a city ordinance requiring background checks on gun sales.