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Four Reasons Why We Might Be At A Tipping Point For Gun Control

There's a new burst of energy around what many people think is a lost cause: gun control.

Posted on August 8, 2019, at 8:20 a.m. ET

This is an excerpt from The Stakes 2020, BuzzFeed News' newsletter about what really matters in the 2020 campaign. You can sign up here.

We’ve promised you this will be a weekly email about presidential politics. But “presidential politics” is, really, nothing more or less than what’s important to Americans and America. This week, that’s the renewed questions around radicalization — and a new burst of energy around what many people think is a lost cause: gun control.

That cause might not be so lost. So read on, and then check out my text interview with presidential candidate Tim Ryan, who has spent this week in Ohio. We talked about the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, and he also explained that face he makes during debates.

Four Reasons the Politics of Guns May Be Changing

The rise of a new movement: The indelible faces of the new movement against military-style weapons are Emma González and her classmates in Parkland, Florida. And its muscle includes just slightly older organizations, like Giffords and Everytown USA, and, in the background, the effectively unlimited money of Mike Bloomberg.

The suburbs: The suburbs gave the House of Representatives to Democrats in 2018, and Republicans know the suburbs could give the White House to Democrats in 2020. Big numbers of suburban voters want tighter gun laws. That’s the hard political logic of why then-governor Rick Scott and Florida Republicans passed new gun safety laws after the Parkland shooting.

Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images

Troubles at the National Rifle Association: The nation’s legendary, feared gun rights group is facing an internal coup attempt, charges of executive embezzlement and misspending, and a serious investigation into its nonprofit status. It’s a consuming internal crisis. That makes it a lot harder to go around threatening politicians or to scare anyone.

The new political violence: We’re living through an age of a new kind of radicalization, in which violent movements draw mostly young men online — and lead them out to kill. The deadliest in today’s America are the new white supremacists, like the man who struck in El Paso, Texas. This trend is undeniable, and terrifying. And Republican members of Congress, whose leaders were targets of political violence on a baseball field in 2017, know it as well as anyone.

How we got here

BuzzFeed News sent reporters out this week to spend time with people on the front lines of this political battle, in an attempt to understand why we are where we are.

Paul explained how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks new gun laws.

Amber spent time with the young people of March for Our Lives, and found they’d stepped away temporarily from the fight to work on their internal diversity.

Kadia talked to a Republican who fought for gun control and gave up, and now thinks nothing can happen “absent direct support from President Trump.”

• And, on a more hopeful note, Henry interviewed John Hickenlooper about how he got gun regulation through in Colorado after the mass shooting in Aurora. Another Republican, John Kasich, told us that with Americans again “heartbroken” over shootings, “there could be change.”


The name of Emma González was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.