Public support for common-sense gun laws in the United States has been steadily increasing in recent years, due in large part to a seemingly endless string of horrific mass shootings, rates of gun-related homicide that are unmatched by those of other high-income nations, and an epidemic of suicide by firearm, according to a D.C.-based think tank.
Yet, researchers at the Center for American Progress (CAP) noted that while some states have responded by implementing sensible gun safety measures, too many states have taken no action at all.
In these states, there remains a disconnect between voters and the state legislators elected to represent them, CAP researchers noted.
In a new report, CAP researchers found that states could save lives by passing tougher gun laws, but partisan gerrymandering keeps progress out of reach.
The report examined the strong public support in the United States for gun safety measures and how partisan gerrymandering has blocked efforts toward sensible reforms in several key states, including Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Gerrymandering in those states have ensured that control of state legislatures shifted to or remained with Republicans who, for the most part, have refused to allow meaningful debate on any common-sense gun law reform measures, according to the report.
“It is very likely that, in the absence of partisan gerrymandering, the legislatures in these five states would have passed measures to strengthen gun laws and save lives,” said Alex Tausanovitch, co-author of the report and director of campaign finance and electoral reform at CAP. “In order to have legislatures that actually respond to the demands of the public, we need to end partisan gerrymandering.”
Voters have made clear that addressing gun violence is a key issue driving them to the polls, and elected representatives in these states are poised to finally take action, said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of Gun Violence Prevention at CAP.
“Yet unfair districts drawn with partisan intent have stymied progress on this crucial issue, leaving communities in these states vulnerable to gun violence and without the representation they deserve,” Parsons said.
The report recommends requiring independent commissions to draw voter-determined districts based on statewide voter preferences.
This policy would end partisan gerrymandering and increase representation for communities that have too often been shut out of the political system, the researchers said.
“Gerrymandering frustrates the will of the people. Fixing gerrymandering would clear the way for state legislatures to enact policies with broad public support, including laws that would help reduce gun violence,” the researchers wrote in the report. “In a nation where the vast majority of voters support strengthening gun laws, one should expect stronger regulation of guns and more resources dedicated to ensuring public health and safety.”