The new political reality

Two things happened last night that will affect gun owners in America. The first is relatively good news. The GOP regained control of the Senate, meaning that both houses of Congress are under Republican control. That means that any new gun control legislation is pretty much DOA. That’s good, and I won’t spend a lot of time talking about that.

Here’s the bad news. In Washington, I-594 passed. The first thing I want to do is show you a map of how the counties in Washington voted on 594:

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All of those green counties on the west coast of Washington are where most of the state’s population live. They are reliably blue counties in elections. The only real surprise on the map are that Whitman and Asotin county in Eastern WA voted yes on 594. I can only assume that Washington State University is responsible for Whitman, and I have no real theory about Asotin.

But allow me to return to the point. The reason why 594 passing is bad news for gun owners everywhere is because it validates Bloomberg’s strategy. This is a new kind of gun control game, they’re smarter than the Brady Campaign and they have functionally unlimited resources. Yes, they played it smart in Washington. They picked an issue that’s easy to misrepresent in universal background checks; they played that issue to a strong blue voter base, and then they spent a ton of money on marketing and GOTV. That’s textbook “Winning Ballot Questions 101” and it’s really hard to fight against.

I would expect to see a lot more ballot question fights in the near future, and I’d expect them to be over things like background checks. It is by far the toughest fight for us, because defeating their argument requires low information blue voters to actually care about facts, and that right there is why we lost in WA. Gun rights had all the facts on their side, and they still lost.

Sure, gun control at the national level is dead for at least two years. But buckle up Sally, because at the state level things could be getting rodeo pretty quick.

Dear Washington: I’m sorry, but you’re going to lose

Washington State is probably going to lose a big piece of the gun rights battle soon, because it looks like Initiative I-594 is going to pass. Now, I hope I’m wrong. I hope the polling data is wildly incorrect, and that the initiative doesn’t pass. But things aren’t looking good for Washington right now, and it’s because at least in that state, they’ve lost the language battle around background checks.

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The problem with background check initiatives is that the language is really hard to control. “Background checks on all gun sales” sounds really good, especially if you’re swinging Paul Allen levels of money at low information voters. Yes, we know that internet sales and face to face sales are perfectly legal and actually aren’t a giant black market for felons, but how do you message that when the opposite side is dropping millions of dollars to sway low-information voters?

And make no mistake, that’s what will win or lose this ballot fight. It won’t be the dedicated pro or anti-gun people hitting the polls, it’ll be the Soccer Moms with their lattes and Ugg boots who vote for this. The media campaign I’ve seen for I-594 has been really good, which makes sense because the anti-gun groups have piled a ton of money into it. Just…all the money. This is how the fight is going to look now, and that’s unfortunate because it’s harder to fight at that level for us.

The NRA, and the pro-gun people always win when the argument comes down to facts. That’s why SAF wins in courts, that’s why we win when we fight legislative battles. But ballot initiatives are like winning elections, and they’re decided by the people. As it turns out, most people are pretty stupid and easily swayed by emotion arguments, and there’s nothing our opponents are better at than emotional arguments. I do have to hand it to those guys, they did a good job of picking targets this time. A ballot initiative in a state with a notoriously ignorant electorate about an issue that’s easy to disguise and mislead on? Well played, fuckers.

I hope in two months time I’m writing a post about how wrong I was.