December 16, 2014
by Kristin Goss
Washington State voters last month defied the gun lobby and approved a measure extending firearm background checks private transfers. For the gun reform movement, the victory was not only a policy success but also potentially a strategic one, offering a roadmap for activism to come.
That gun reformers see a path forward is significant, because for at least two decades they have lost much ground to their better-funded and better-organized opponents. Firearms laws at the national level and in many states have loosened; the public has grown more supportive of guns in the home and more skeptical about gun regulation; grassroots cadres have arisen to normalize firearms in public life; and political partisans have hardened in a way that makes compromise on the issue very difficult.
Against these strong headwinds, the gun control movement struggled to keep moving. But after a spate of mass shootings — Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora, and Sandy Hook, among others — pro-reform groups are mobilizing on a scale not seen in more than a decade and doing so with resources and tools that their predecessors lacked.
As the mighty gun lobby meets a resurgent gun control movement, now is a good time to take stock of the seismic pro-gun shift that happened largely under the radar in every branch of government and at every level – and how gun reformers are taking lessons from their opponents in how to change laws and culture.