On Wednesday evening, I attended an event in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, entitled “Transforming the Gun Debate.” The panel discussion was fascinating, including a talk by Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia’s 11th Congressional District. Here’s Rep. Connolly talking about how he narrowly won reelection in 2010 (by fewer than 1,000 votes over Republican challenger Keith Fimian), largely on the issue of “gun control.” A few highlights from Connolly’s remarks include the ones below. I found Connolly’s comments particularly interesting, because they run diametrically counter to the common meme in the media that gun control is always a losing issue (despite polling that clearly indicates strong support among Americans for statements like, “gun control laws in this country should be more strict than they are now”).
*”You are looking at a member of Congress who, I believe arguably can attribute his reelection last November to the fact that there were a plurality of people in his district who favor reasonable gun control laws.”
*The NRA, which is headquartered in Connolly’s district, considers reasonable, commonsense gun laws to be “radical.”
*Fairfax County was hit hard by the Virginia Tech shootings, with 8 young people from Fairfax County dead. What was shocking to Rep. Connolly was how quickly the “PR machine of the more radical elements of gun advocates got to work right away…if they’d only been packing heat…they could have gotten the gunman faster.”
*Fairfax County favors reasonable gun control measures. When Connolly’s opponent was quoted saying “if only those kids had been packing heat at Virginia Tech, they might have lived,” it dominated media coverage in the days leading up to the election, and Connolly believes, helped reverse his opponent’s momentum and save the election – which was probably about to “drop” against Connolly – for him.
*In addition, Mayor Michael Bloomberg put money into the race, in large part because of Connolly’s support for reasonable gun control measures, specifically legislation to close the gun show loophole.
*According to Connolly, the only groups which really helped him in the closing days of his election were the gun control advocates (they “came to the rescue”), not the environmentalists or labor groups or anyone else.
*Connolly adds that the gun control issue resonated particularly strongly among “independent moderate women.”
*Bottom line: According to Rep. Connolly, the conventional wisdom that the gun issue is toxic politically is wrong. To the contrary, according to Connolly, “I actually won reelection because of the gun issue”, and that was a “very significant achievement.” Here’s the conclusion, which I think is worth quoting in full:
We can prevail. We can resonate with our message with the public. But we’ve got to have the stick-to-it-iveness to do it, and we’ve got to put resources behind it. It’s not good enough to say thank you so much for your vote and here’s a check for $250, good luck I hope you get reelected. We’ve got be more serious about it, we really do. The other side is. But if we are, I’m telling you, we can have a lot more results like mine.
Some encouraging words on the politics of gun control from a politician who speaks from his own personal experience.
This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters’ mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.