During the 2018 election, Long Island was the site of a damaging schism in the gun control movement.
In New York’s 2nd Congressional District race, gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety endorsed incumbent U.S. Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) despite the opposition of its grassroots affiliate, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA). MDA volunteers canvassed for King’s Democratic challenger, Liuba Grechen Shirley, and even gave her a “candidate distinction” award for her fidelity to gun reform.
Everytown backed King because he was cosponsoring universal background checks legislation and “pledged to put public safety ahead of gun lobby priorities.” But after prevailing over Shirley in his re-election bid, the congressman has failed to honor this promise.
King was just one of eight Republicans to vote for H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, when it passed the House in February of this year. But he also voted for a Motion to Recommit by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) that calls for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be notified every time an undocumented immigrant attempts to buy a gun. Republicans were able to add this poison pill to H.R. 8 with the help of 26 defecting House Democrats who approved the MTR.
The angry reaction from the gun control movement’s intersectional allies was immediate, as intended by the gun lobby. “No amount of gun-control legislation victory can cover up the fact that the House just passed legislation to further criminalize our family members and community,” said Kevin Solis of the immigrant rights group DREAM Team Los Angeles.
The chances of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) shepherding a clean version of H.R. 8 to passage in his chamber were slim to begin with. With the House version of the bill now so tainted even gun control groups can’t support it, those chances are reduced to nil.
Whether it’s Liuba Grechen Shirley or Babylon Town Councilmember Jackie Gordon running against King in 2020, Everytown seems poised to back the incumbent again. That’s unfortunate, because MDA’s Long Island volunteers are clearly better judges of how to protect their community than Manhattan executives will ever be.
Ladd Everitt is a longtime gun control professional and volunteer. He has worked as director of George Takei’s Gun Violence Provention group One Pulse for America, director of communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and president of the Million Mom March D.C. chapter.