The day after this week’s elections, the National Rifle Association got exactly what it wanted: a front-page New York Times story about Colorado results that supposedly send “lawmakers across the country a warning about the political risks of voting for tougher gun laws.” In These Time writes that the article, and many others like it, “came after the gun lobby mounted successful recall campaigns against two state legislators who, in the wake of mass shootings, voted for universal background checks, limits on the capacity of bullet magazines and restrictions on domestic abusers owning firearms.
“Despite the recalls being anomalously low-turnout affairs, the national media helped the gun lobby deliver a frightening message to politicians: Vote for modest gun control and face political death.
“For all that reductionism, though, there are more nuanced lessons from these elections. First and foremost, with statewide polls showing that most Coloradans support modest gun control and opposed the recall campaigns, the elections prove that in low-turnout situations, a relatively small group of pro-gun voters can still win the day.
“Additionally, with gun extremists issuing threats of violence against pro-gun-control legislators, Colorado Democrats stopped explaining why their gun legislation was so necessary. In light of that, the election results are a reminder that when politicians don’t stay on the message offensive, they quickly find themselves on the electoral defensive. This is especially the case when, as a Pew survey documented, voters who oppose gun control tend to be more motivated single-issue voters than those who support gun control. That intensity gap, of course, is the most significant story of the Colorado elections because it reveals how different people ascribe different meanings to the gun debate. Continue reading “Guns and freedom”