Despite public polling that indicates a majority of Americans favor more gun control, gun-control advocates have been losing ground for years because of activism at the state level in part because of increased political polarization, according to Sean Holihan, state legislative director for Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
The number of states where the legislative chambers and the governorship were carried by different parties has shrunk.
“Increasingly, you’re seeing a trifecta and the needs of the most active members of the party are being met,” Houlihan said.
Both Ohio and Alabama state houses and governorships are controlled by Republicans overwhelmingly along partisan lines; in Ohio, the bill didn’t earn a single vote from Democrats in either chamber.
Winkler, the UCLA law professor, said a hidden factor driving looser gun laws is partisan gerrymandering.
“In an environment where there are very safe seats, you get candidates who, with an issue like gun control, try to outextreme the other candidate,” he said. “And in the Republican Party, it’s been especially pronounced; you don’t want your opponents to say you’re soft on guns, because that hurts you in the primary.”