Opinion | Democrats need to give up the gun fight

Gun-ownership is the largest predictor of how you’ll vote — if democrats want to win, they need to change their focus.


Ben Smith

Guns are displayed at Scheels in Coralville on Tuesday, April 11. The Iowa House recently accepted the stand-your-ground-provision, an amendment to HF 517, which permits an individual to use deadly force when their life is in danger.

Peyton Downing, Opinions Editor

Before anything else, let me say this — I think gun culture is backward and idiotic. Personal ownership of firearms is something I frankly don’t understand, and I personally believe it’s preferable that no one own guns.

But Democrats need to change their tune on guns if they want Republican converts.

Gun ownership was the biggest predictor of voting back in 2016 — beating race, marriage status, and religion, according to The New York Times. With Democrats making concessions to the right — including Republican John Kasich appearing at the Democratic National Convention to say that Joe Biden won’t go “sharp left” — why not make it in the one area that makes sense?

The platform when it comes to gun control has largely been confrontational. Nothing more accurately sums it up than former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s comments from when he was still running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hell yeah, we’re going to take your AR-15.”

Regardless of any other statements, caveats, or qualifiers, this hardline rhetoric is what people think of when they think of Democrats’ gun policy. And Biden hasn’t done anything to disprove it.

The former vice president’s plan calls for several things including banning the creation and importation of assault weapons and ensuring that all guns are “smart,” in that they only fire if keyed to the fingerprint of the owner.

Philosophically, I agree on a couple of these points. It would be best if guns could only be fired by their owners or people the owner adds. It would be best if people were forced to store their weapons safely.

Pragmatically? These are dead in the water.

Gun owners are never going to vote for things like this — there’s so much vagueness about these policy proposals that it’s going to drive people from the opposite side away.

And honestly? I’m not so certain assault weapons should be banned.

The majority of firearm homicides are committed with handguns, according to Pew Research Center, with only 4 percent of them being committed by rifles, which assault weapons fall under. Even then, most firearm deaths are suicide, not homicide. If all we wanted to do was prevent gun deaths, we would ban handguns, not assault weapons.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can use appropriated funds to study the causes of gun violence, they cannot use those funds to advocate for gun control. This means the organization cannot lobby for reform they find to be helpful.

This provision was made in the 1996 spending bill by then-Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., and is now known as the Dickey Amendment. (Dickey later reneged on his beliefs.)

Any policy put forward needs to be backed up with data, but that doesn’t exist yet. Democrats need to attack the opposition by saying they want the research done and to go with what the data says.

There’s a lot to be done regarding guns in America, but the way those against firearms have approached it has left more than enough room for conservatives to attack them.

Research is already out there discussing what gun owners want in gun control — universal background checks, greater gun dealer accountability, domestic violence restraining orders, and the list goes on.

There is plenty of overlap between what gun owners and non-gun owners want. And if Democrats want to actually swing voters over, they need to stop this crusade against assault weapons.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.