Gun violence isn’t a new phenomenon in the United States. But a string of mass shootings in recent years—at churches, entertainment venues, schools—have transformed what may have once felt like a distant concern into a daily consideration for many Americans.
Those fears have only been amplified this summer after shootings in Odessa and El Paso, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio. That has led Democrats in Congress, back in session this week after the summer recess, to push Republican lawmakers and President Donald Trump for serious consideration of gun-control bills this fall. Trump is expected to be presented with legislative options during a meeting with Republican leadership later today. Previous mass shootings haven’t moved the needle much on enacting such legislation. But, some strategists and gun-control advocates told me, Democrats could make it a winning issue by replicating what they did in 2018: They could encourage voters to think about guns the same way they think about health care.
Guns have “to be on par with health care and with quality-of-life issues,” Dan Sena, a Democratic strategist who was the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during last year’s midterms, told me in an interview. And the growing intrusion of mass gun violence into daily life could be what upgrades the issue to a top concern for voters—a shift that Democrats could try to capitalize on in the same way they seized on voters’ worries about the fate of Obamacare and their own creeping health-care costs last year. The 2020 election, Sena said, “could be the first time you actually see” gun violence take center stage as the party’s go-to election message.