By Larry Keane
The results are still trickling in on Wednesday, but we’re getting a clearer picture of what we can expect when it comes to the next two years for gun laws in the United States.
Conventional wisdom says that the party in the White House loses “bigly” when it comes to the midterm elections, but last night’s results are proving different. We’re seeing more of a mixed bag in the Congressional results, a changing landscape in the governorships and gun control advocates that spent big and claim victory. But that call might be a bit premature.
House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives will flip back to Democrat control in the 116th Congress. There are several West Coast races still awaiting final counts, but Fox News’ Karl Rove predicted the final count will be 228-207 in favor of Democrats, which will see the Speaker of the House’s gavel change hands.
Prevailing sentiment says Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will again become house speaker, but many incumbent and congressmen-elect have vowed to not support her for the top leadership spot. We can expect short-term leadership power-plays, but they will have little effect on what we will eventually see in the next two years from the House.
What it Means
The “Blue Wave” wasn’t the tsunami gun control advocates expected, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a flood of gun control bills. Rep. Pelosi promised Floridians when she visited there in October that gun control would be a “top priority” in the coming year. She said then that she’d push for a gun background check bill, which we can only assume means what she’s already advocated for in universal background checks.
Expect more. Virginia Democratic Congresswoman-elect Jennifer Wexton defeated Rep. Barbara Comstock on a platform that included banning AR-15 modern sporting rifles and standard-capacity magazines. She’s just one of several newly elected members of Congress who will be looking to make good on their campaign promises.
Expect the House to turn from a legislative body to an investigative body. Democrats will take over every committee chairmanship. We should expect little to get done in the way of legislation because they’ll be more interested in investigating everything from impeachment to Russian collusion to President Donald Trump’s tax returns. And firearms will be in the mix too. Expect hearings on taxpayer-funded gun violence research, magazine restrictions, ammunition bans, age-based gun bans and attempts to outright ban entire classes of firearms.
If the House was the “Blue Ripple,” the U.S. Senate served as the Red Wall. And it got bigger. Republicans appeared to pick up at least net three seats, including North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer beating Heidi Heitkamp, Missouri’s Josh Hawley defeating Claire McCaskill, Florida’s Rick Scott topping Bill Nelson and Indiana’s Mike Braun overcoming Joe Donnelly. Nevada’s Sen. Dean Heller lost to Jacky Rosen, turning one Republican seat blue. Votes are still being counted in Arizona, and Mississippi is headed for a runoff. The first and most glaring lesson is that with the exception of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), each of these Democratic senators voted against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
What it Means
Most importantly, the Senate has been called the saucer that cools the hot tea that comes over from the House. It’s been a frustrating characteristic at times, but now will become a reality that benefits the firearms industry and gun owners. Legislation can pass the House by simple majority, even if it’s just one vote. But it only takes one senator to kill a bad bill.
It also means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is going to keep up the blistering pace of confirming judges to the bench and Trump Administration nominees won’t be automatically mired in the morass of politics. That’s especially important when it comes to the Supreme Court. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are in their eighties. Neither has indicated a desire to retire, but no one foresaw that President Trump would nominate and confirm two justices in his first two years either.
More to Come
We’re still sifting through all the results, including state governorships, state legislatures and ballot initiatives. Tune in when NSSF hosts webinars on what the midterm election results mean to our industry and what we can expect. You can know this much: NSSF will remain engaged, fighting against legislation that hurts our industry and that infringes on our rights while working to America safer while respecting our liberties.
Larry Keane is the SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel at National Shooting Sports Foundation.