Gun Control, Interrupted

Ladd Everitt
7 min readDec 21, 2018


After big victories by gun control champions in the midterm elections, the NRA and its allies are seeking to turn the Parkland movement into a memory.

There’s no denying the 2018 midterm election was the political high-water mark for the modern-day gun control movement. Gun control groups outspent the gun lobby for the first time ever and defeated dozens of pro-gun incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives to help Democrats win control of the chamber. At least 30 newly-elected members have joined the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, including Lucy McBath (GA-6), Jason Crow (CO-6), Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) and Abigail Spanberger (VA-7). Democrats who champion gun control also won many governorships and state legislature seats. An Associated Press survey found 61% of midterm voters wanted stricter gun laws, compared to only 8% who favored loosening gun laws.

Gun violence survivor Lucy McBath is one of the public safety champions who powered the Democratic Party to victory in the 2018 election.

With this incredible victory by pro-gun control candidates, and with the NRA hemorrhaging money and under investigation by the FBI for collusion with Russia, Democratic legislators are well-positioned to make a bolder push for measures to disarm violent individuals at the federal and state level. The early signs, however, do not look good. While congressional Democrats exhale after months of hard work and focus on other issues (budget, immigration, environment, etc.), the NRA and its allies are making a determined push to erase legislative and cultural gains made by the student-survivors from Parkland, Florida (the February 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resulted in 17 deaths and 14 injuries).

At the federal level, House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi promised to make gun control a “priority” in the upcoming 116th Congress, suggesting floor votes would be quick in coming. But that promise has been scaled back. House GVP Task Force chair Mike Thompson (D-CA-5th) is now indicating Democrats will begin with a series of hearings on gun violence held by multiple committees. The first bill to get a vote would be a revised version of H.R. 4240, the “Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act” introduced by Reps. Thompson and Peter King (R-NY-2nd). As currently written, H.R. 4240 is an expanded background checks bill, but King and Thompson are offering assurances it has been rewritten to require background checks on gun buyers during virtually all private sales of firearms (save transactions involving immediate family members).

Pelosi and House Democratic leaders are insisting on having a “bipartisan” vote to approve H.R. 4240 because Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) want a bill they can sell to their Republican colleagues in the Senate. The problem is Rep. King is the only Republican in either chamber to indicate support for universal background checks legislation. The only way to obtain more Republican votes for H.R. 4240 would be to water it down by adding additional pro-gun provisions. The bill already contains an NRA provision prohibiting the federal government from registering privately-held firearms.

Gun control groups have seen this movie before…in April 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting when “bipartisan” legislation to expand background checks was voted down in the Democratic-controlled Senate. This was after Sens. Manchin and Toomey allowed the gun lobby to add a significant number of harmful provisions to the bill that would have further weakened federal gun laws. There is absolutely no reason to think H.R. 4240 will fare any better than the Manchin-Toomey Amendment.

Sens. Manchin and Toomey led a disastrous, failed campaign to pass a watered-down background checks bill in 2013. So why is the House Democratic leadership allowing them to limit gun control legislation in 2018?

But this obscures a more important point, because even a 100% clean universal background checks bill would not stop violent people in America from buying firearms. That’s because Americans with a history of violence constantly pass background checks through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS) and legally obtain firearms.

Ninety-two percent of these instant computer checks on gun buyers are completed in just two minutes and the process involves no human interaction with law enforcement whatsoever. These are features, not bugs. The instant check system was originally designed by the National Rifle Association in the late 1980s as a poison pill to kill the Brady Bill. The system’s emphasis on speed over thoroughness is exacerbated by the fact that our outdated federal laws still allow many categories of violent people to own and purchase firearms. This includes individuals with violent misdemeanor convictions like assault/battery, domestic abusers who have been subject to prior restraining orders, alcohol/substance abusers without serious criminal records, etc. A recent FBI study of 63 mass shooters found that only a small percentage had to obtain their guns illegally despite exhibiting an average of 4–5 “concerning behaviors” noticed by those around them (e.g., symptoms of mental illness, physical aggression, negligent handling of firearms, etc.).

The U.S. desperately needs to transition to a post-NRA screening system for gun buyers that will consistently and routinely block individuals with a history of violence from buying guns. That screening system is national gun licensing & registration. Since no gun control bill the House Democrats pass stands any chance of becoming law given GOP control of the Senate and presidency, they should start clean and think big. If the United States was a brand new country that had just been founded, what type of laws would you put in place to make sure gun violence never reaches the epidemic levels we see today?

That type of aspirational agenda would keep Democrats’ gun control base mobilized and energized heading into the 2020 elections. Republican votes shouldn’t be needed to pass gun control bills given the size of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. Democrats can pass good bills and enact them into law when they regain control of the federal government.

It’s not just the federal level where gun control advocacy lags in intensity. The NRA, despite its enormous financial and political problems, has been resurgent in areas where Republicans maintained control of state government. This can be seen in Ohio, where the Republican legislature is preparing to override Governor John Kasich’s veto of a dangerous “Stand Your Ground” bill (HB 228), and in Florida, where the outgoing and incoming governors are doing everything in their power to erase significant gains made by the March for Our Lives students in a short period of time.

The situation is particularly dire in Florida. On December 12, the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission” appointed by Republican Governor Rick Scott voted 13–1 in favor of a recommendation to expand the “Guardian Program” by training teachers to carry loaded guns in K-12 schools. The chair of the commission, Pinellas County sheriff Bob Gualtieri, said he shepherded the recommendation to passage because “we need to put aside these ideological positions and realize what reality calls for.” The fake, politicized commission offered no recommendations to regulate firearms.

Media Matters has since revealed that Gualtieri and other members of the commission have been talking to the NRA for months about adding teachers to the Guardian Program. Sheriff Gualtieri appeared on NRA-TV with host Dana Loesch in August to argue (with no evidence) that an armed teacher could have stopped the Parkland shooter. Then Gualtieri gave Loesch access to commission documents that were shielded from public view. Another commission member, radical sheriff Brady Judd from Polk County, appeared on NRA-TV two weeks before the commission’s report was released to brag about his (purported) role in convincing Gualtieri to support arming teachers.

The gutless and corrupted chair of Rick Scott’s school safety commission, Pinellas County sheriff Bob Gualtieri, went on NRA-TV with Dana Loesch and claimed, without evidence, that an armed teacher could have stopped the Parkland shooter.

Another “Marjory Stoneman Douglas H.S. Public Safety Commission” member who voted in favor of arming teachers is Democrat Lauren Book, a state Senator from Plantation, Florida. Previously, Book was at the center of successful negotiations on gun reform legislation in Tallahassee following the Parkland shooting. Those negotiations led to Governor Scott signing SB 7026, a historic bill that established a “Risk Protection Order” policy, raised the minimum age to buy a long gun from 18 to 21, banned the sale of bump stocks, and created the Guardian Program. Book fought for the gun control provisions in SB 7026, but is now cynically trying to have it both ways on the issue.

The president of the Florida Senate, Bill Galvano, said he is “very open” to moving legislation to implement the commission’s recommendation to arm teachers. Remarkably, Everytown for Gun Safety gave Galvano $500,000 in political contributions during the 2018 election cycle despite his ‘A’ rating from the NRA. Incoming Neanderthal governor Ron Desantis further strengthened the pro-gun push in Florida by stocking his own “Transition Advisory Committee on Public Safety” with gun nut radicals and businessmen looking to exploit school shootings for personal profit.

While Tallahassee burns, March for our Lives leaders like David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez and Matt Deitsch have been conspicuously silent and out-of-sight. I suspect this is because they are physically and emotionally exhausted after completing their national bus tour the day before the midterm elections. These post-election developments, however, should remind them that their accomplishments will be ephemeral if they discontinue their bold, unapologetic push for culture change on guns.

The unfiltered perspective of young people who survived hell, their unflinching and courageous commentary on our deranged gun culture and immoral laws, was the wind behind the gun control movement’s victory in the midterms. We will not make further progress in our quest to prevent death and suffering without March For Our Lives (and similar student groups) in the lead. We should hope, too, that new congressional Democrats like Lucy McBath will forge a bolder path on gun control legislation than their predecessors.



Ladd Everitt

Ladd Everitt is a comms pro & gun control expert who’s worked for Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, George Takei's One Pulse for America, and Million Mom March.