The gun control movement, blocked in Congress and losing federal elections, is tweaking its name, refining its goals and using the same-sex marriage movement as a model to take the fight to voters on the state level, the New York Times reports. After a November victory on a Washington state ballot measure that will require broader background checks on gun buyers, groups that promote gun regulations are turning their attention and their growing wallets to other states that allow ballot measures. An initiative seeking stricter background checks for certain buyers has qualified for the 2016 ballot in Nevada, where such a law was passed last year by the legislature and vetoed by the governor. Advocates of gun safety, the term many now use instead of “gun control,” are seeking lines on ballots in Arizona, Maine and Oregon as well.
Colorado and Oregon approved ballot measures on background checks at gun shows after the Columbine school massacre in 1999, but the movement stalled after that. The National Rifle Association, which raises millions of dollars a year largely from small donors and has a muscular state lobbying apparatus, is well attuned to its foes' shift in focus. “We will be wherever they are to challenge them,” said spokesman Andrew Arulanandam. The focus on ballot initiatives comes after setbacks in Congress and in statehouses. After the 2012 mass school shooting in Newtown, Ct., President Obama's effort to pass a background-check measure never got out of the Democratic-controlled Senate. Although 10 states have passed major gun control legislation, more states have loosened gun restrictions. Candidates who backed gun control mostly lost in the midterm elections, even after groups spent millions on their behalf.