Republicans believe Democrats risk Rust Belt wipeout over gun control

Tuesday, August 6, 2019
By Paul Martin

by David M. Drucker
August 06, 2019

Democratic ambitions to restrict access to firearms following deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, could cost the party support in critical 2020 battlegrounds and boost President Trump to a second term, Republican strategists predict.

Democratic efforts to limit gun rights could repel culturally conservative firearms owners who vote in high numbers and helped deliver key Rust Belt states to Trump in 2016 after years of loyalty to the Democratic Party.

In addition to near-blanket support for universal background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons, Democratic presidential candidates want to require Americans to obtain a license from the federal government before they purchase guns. Others favor gun buyback programs, while some are vowing to act unilaterally via executive action if Congress resists their gun control agenda.

Their recommendations are wildly popular with liberal primary voters, and Democratic insiders argue that bold action risks little in a general election against Trump. But given Trump won the election by luring moderate to conservative Democrats in states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio, the risk for Democrats is significant, some Republicans argue.

Democrats often blame Republican resistance to gun control legislation on the National Rifle Association, an influential gun-rights advocacy group.

But the GOP position is largely a reaction to their voters, many of whom are former Democrats and tend to participate in elections strictly to protect the Second Amendment. And because these voters predominate throughout Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, not to mention Florida, Iowa, and Ohio, many Republican insiders are convinced Democrats embrace of gun rights will aid Trump in those states, where he won and must win again to be reelected.

Charlie Gerow, a Republican operative from Pennsylvania, said the electoral math on support for the Second Amendment is tilted in Trump’s favor in his crucial White House battleground state — more so if he can run against a Democrat who the president can credibly accuse of wanting to severely reduce Americans’ ability to purchase firearms. “A Democratic nominee runs in the opposite direction at their peril,” Gerow said.

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