Gun control must be central theme for Democratic candidates in 2020

Gun control must be central theme for Democratic candidates in 2020
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For decades, senseless gun violence has scarred our country physically, emotionally, and financially. The failure of our elected officials to create change through policymaking has allowed gun violence to terrorize our communities, from schools to places of worship to workplaces. Indeed, we were again reminded this month of just how little progress our leaders have made on gun control. Just weeks after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, two people entered another school in Colorado and fatally shot one student and severely injured eight others.

Tragically, gun violence is no longer a rarity. Over 36,000 Americans are killed by gun violence and around 100,000 more are shot and wounded every year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Gun violence survivors are our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and in some cases our families. New data from Everytown for Gun Safety reveals the enormous and widespread impact of gun violence. This epidemic has become so rampant that it now costs our national and local economies billions of dollars every year, hurts the economic progress of affected communities, and impacts job creators and businesses in many ways.

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The unprecedented impact of gun violence is shocking and disturbing, especially considering that voters want changes to gun laws, yet we have not witnessed any substantive legislative success. In the 2018 midterms, gun violence was the top election issue for young people, with 91 percent of millennials saying the position of a candidate on guns is important when deciding who to vote for, according to a study that year by Everytown for Gun Safety and Courage to Fight Gun Violence.

Indeed, the election of Lucy McBath in 2018 revealed how powerful the issue of gun control can be on the campaign trail. McBath, a gun control activist whose son was killed in a 2012 shooting, defeated the Republican incumbent in the Georgia district once held by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and was once thought to be unwinnable for a Democrat.

Put simply, this can and should be a unifying issue for Democrats going into 2020. Witnin a party that is plagued by differences over health care, college tuition, and even climate change, gun control is a fundamental issue where voters want change, and the Democrats can unite around it. To be sure, this is an issue that spans from grassroots activism to national politics, and even across the ideological spectrum. My fellow Democrats would be wise to bring this issue to the forefront of the 2020 campaign.

Further, according to a Reuters Ipsos poll earlier this year, 69 percent of Americans, including 85 percent of Democrats along with 57 percent of Republicans, want strong or moderate restrictions placed on firearms to stop gun violence. The same poll found that Democrats and Republicans largely agree on a variety of gun control measures, including stopping people with history of mental illness from buying guns, a ban on internet sales of ammunition, and expanding background checks at gun shows.

Ending gun violence is a unifying issue for Democrats, independents, and moderates. It should no doubt be a central theme for Democrats in 2020. Unfortunately, Democratic candidates have thus far not given this issue the attention it demands and have instead focused on championing other issues, such as putting an end to Citizens United. As the primary season progresses, one would hope that Democratic candidates, and especially the one who wins the party nomination, make taking on the National Rifle Association and the entire gun lobby an issue of the utmost importance.

Ultimately, combating gun violence is not only the politically expedient thing to do, it is the right thing to do. Mass shootings in the United States can be described in many ways as tragic, devastating, disturbing, and inexplicable. However, it is also often times preventable. It is time for our elected officials to step up and put a stop to this deadly epidemic that has plagued our families, our communities, and our country for far too long.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”