How Partisan Gerrymandering Prevents Legislative Action on Gun Violence

How Partisan Gerrymandering Prevents Legislative Action on Gun Violence
Getty/Universal Images Group/Education Images

People walk toward the Wisconsin state Capitol building in Madison, October 2017.

Introduction and summary

Public support for commonsense gun laws in the United States has been steadily increasing in recent years, due in large part to a seemingly ceaseless string of horrific mass shootings, rates of gun-related homicide that are unmatched by those of other high-income nations, and an epidemic of suicide by firearm.

Yet while some states have responded by implementing sensible gun safety measures, too many states have taken no action at all. In these states, there remains a disconnect between voters and the state legislators elected to represent them.1 One major contributor to this disconnect is partisan gerrymandering—the process of drawing districts to unfairly favor certain politicians or political parties. Partisan gerrymandering is one of the reasons why a public that supports stronger gun laws can be represented by state legislators who do nothing in the wake of severe episodes of gun violence. Even when there is bipartisan support for a particular gun policy, conservative leaders in many state legislatures persistently refuse to allow such bills to have a hearing or come to a vote.

This report examines how the pernicious problem of partisan gerrymandering stymies efforts toward sensible reforms in several states—including North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia—despite strong public support for gun safety measures. These states provide some of the most extreme examples of gerrymandering: Even though Democrats won a majority of the statewide votes, control of the state legislatures remained with Republicans who, for the most part, have refused to allow meaningful debate on any commonsense gun safety measures. In each of these states, it is likely that, in the absence of partisan gerrymandering, the legislature would have enacted measures to strengthen gun laws—measures that could have saved lives.

The report also puts forward a policy solution: States should require independent commissions to draw voter-determined districts based on statewide voter preferences. Implementing this policy would end partisan gerrymandering and increase representation for communities that have too often been shut out of the political system and also suffer the most from the lack of sensible gun safety legislation. 

The American people recognize the need for sensible gun safety laws

Support for gun safety measures has been steadily increasing. A Gallup poll that has tracked U.S. public opinion on gun laws for decades reveals that only 43 percent of Americans in 2011 believed that laws governing the sale of guns should be made stricter, whereas that number had risen to 64 percent by October 2019.2 Support for specific gun policies is even higher: A September 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 88 percent of Americans support requiring background checks for all gun sales; 71 percent support banning high-capacity ammunition magazines; and 69 percent support banning assault weapons.3

This increased public support for stronger gun laws has led to legislative action in many states. An analysis by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that in the 17 months following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 32 states and Washington, D.C., passed more than 110 gun safety bills.4

Many of these new laws address significant gaps that leave communities vulnerable to gun violence. For example, to date, 21 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to require background checks for all handgun sales, seeking to close a deadly gap in federal law that only requires background checks for sales that occur at a licensed gun dealer.5 Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., have enacted extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws, which create a civil remedy allowing concerned family members or law enforcement to obtain a judicial order to temporarily remove guns from a person who demonstrates that they pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.6 Many states have also strengthened laws to restrict domestic abusers’ access to firearms.7

Universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders

Universal background checks would require any seller of firearms, whether federally licensed firearms dealers or private sellers, to conduct a background check on prospective buyers before transferring a gun.8 Federal and state laws establish specific criteria that bar certain people from possessing or purchasing firearms. Implementing universal background checks would make it more difficult for people prohibited from firearm possession to easily obtain one, which would in turn help reduce gun violence and gun trafficking.

ERPOs are a civil legal remedy enabling family members or law enforcement officials to petition a judge for the temporary removal of firearms from a person who presents an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others.9 ERPOs provide due process to the respondent while also providing a legal tool to intervene when an individual exhibits signs that they are experiencing a temporary crisis and are a danger to themselves or others. Early research on the effect of this policy finds that it has been effective at preventing suicides by firearm as well as disarming people who have threatened to commit mass shootings.10

While significant progress has been made in recent years to strengthen gun laws at the state level, there has been little to no action in many states despite the urgent need to enact sensible reforms. Part of the problem is partisan gerrymandering.

How partisan gerrymandering has undermined gun safety efforts

At least once every decade, politicians redraw the lines of their electoral districts. Districts need to be adjusted to account for changes in population so that each representative still represents roughly the same number of people.11 However, politicians frequently take this opportunity to draw lines that benefit themselves and hurt their opponents. They strategically spread out supporters of their own party to get a majority in as many districts as possible while concentrating supporters of the opposing party in as few districts as possible. This is sometimes referred to as “cracking and packing.” If one party’s supporters are packed into few enough districts, the other party can sometimes win a majority of districts even when they receive a minority of the votes.

Some states have adopted reforms to keep politicians out of the redistricting process, putting independent commissions in charge instead.12 In 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the For the People Act, which would require every state to use independent commissions in drawing federal districts.13 However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to bring the legislation up for a vote.14 In the absence of legislative action, partisan map-drawing is still the norm. Furthermore, advances in map-drawing software have made partisan operatives much more effective at drawing districts that skew to their benefit.15

Importantly, gerrymandering is not a one-party phenomenon. For example, when redrawing Maryland’s congressional districts in 2011, “[T]he Democratic Party was as ruthless as their GOP counterparts in trying to redistrict their rivals out of existence.”16 However, during the 2010 redistricting cycle—at a time when gerrymandering technology had recently become more advanced—Republicans controlled a significantly larger portion of state legislatures and therefore were able to gerrymander more state districts in their favor.17 In the 2018 elections, Republicans won control of multiple legislative chambers in states where their candidates received less than half of the major-party vote; Democrats did not win any state legislative chambers in this manner.18

Not all gerrymanders are the sole result of one party working to gain an advantage over the opposing party. Some are bipartisan. In a divided government, for example, leaders of both parties may have some say in the process and will generally try to create safe districts where incumbents are protected from competition.19 Gerrymandering can even be unintentional.20 Since Democrats are often heavily concentrated in urban areas, drawing simple, compact districts is likely to pack Democratic voters into a small number of urban districts, yielding results similar to a Republican gerrymander.21 Pennsylvania’s process for drawing state legislative districts lends itself to both bipartisan and unintentional gerrymandering. The districts are drawn by a five-member commission, with four members hand-picked by leaders of both parties, that must draw districts in accordance with a relatively strict compactness requirement.22 This practice has produced a legislative map that is skewed in favor of Republicans.

The effects of partisan gerrymandering are significant. On average, from 2012 to 2016, gerrymandering resulted in 19 more Republicans being elected to Congress than there would have been if representation reflected statewide vote totals.23 At the state level, gerrymandering has actually switched party control of legislatures.

It is also important to note that the effects of partisan gerrymandering and the devastating toll of gun violence are not evenly shared. Young people and communities of color comprise a disproportionate share of gun-related deaths.24 They are more likely to live in urban areas and vote for Democratic candidates and are therefore disproportionately affected by gerrymandering that favors Republicans.25 For these communities, gerrymandering is not a theoretical concern; it is a practice that actively diminishes their political voice and ability to protect themselves and their children from tragedy.

Below, the authors examine instances of extreme gerrymandering and its effect on gun safety legislation.

North Carolina

North Carolina, thrust into the spotlight as the subject of a recent U.S. Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, has some of the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the country.26 Its state districts are also heavily skewed. In 2018, Democrats won a majority of the major-party vote for both chambers of the state legislature, winning 51.2 percent of the vote for state House and 50.5 percent of the vote for state Senate. However, Republicans ultimately won majority control of both houses of the state legislature, with 54.2 percent of the seats in the House and 58 percent of the seats in the Senate.27 Overall, as seen in Figure 1, North Carolina Republicans received 49.1 percent of the statewide major-party votes for both the state House and Senate but 55.3 percent of the total seats. A recent report by the University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy highlighted North Carolina, Michigan, and Pennsylvania as among the nation’s worst examples of “minority rule.”28

North Carolina has above-average rates of gun violence, including gun murder rates that are 16 percent higher than the national average.29 North Carolina also earned a D grade from the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in its Annual Gun Law Scorecard, which grades states on their relative strength of gun laws.30 An April 2019 Elon University poll found that fear of “shootings in public places” topped the list of concerns that make North Carolina residents feel “very unsafe.”31 A September 2019 Civitas Institute poll found that 58 percent of North Carolinians think that gun laws in the state are “not strict enough.”32

In recent years, advocates have prioritized two key pieces of legislation to strengthen North Carolina’s laws to reduce gun violence.33 The first is legislation to create an ERPO. This type of legislation gained significant traction in states across the country following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.34 The North Carolina ERPO bill was introduced in both chambers in the 2017–2018 legislative session but never received a hearing or advanced out of committee.35 The bill was introduced again in the state House in March 2019 with 31 cosponsors, including the House Democratic leader and the deputy Democratic leader, but has similarly not advanced out of committee.36 A version of the bill was also reintroduced in the state Senate in April 2019 and has stalled in committee.37 While Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has urged the legislature to consider the ERPO legislation as a measure to address gun violence, Republican legislative leadership in North Carolina has refused to consider gun policy and instead has pledged to focus on “mental health or behavioral health.”38 State Democratic legislators recently filed a discharge petition in the state House to force a floor vote; however, this measure is unlikely to receive enough signatures to be effective because it would require six Republicans to sign on.39

Gov. Cooper has also urged the state legislature to advance a second gun violence prevention bill that would strengthen the state’s gun laws in a number of ways, including by requiring a permit to purchase assault weapons and other long guns; imposing a 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases; raising the minimum age to buy assault weapons; requiring safe storage of guns and reporting when a gun is lost or stolen; limiting the size of ammunition magazines; and allowing local governments to enact their own measures related to gun possession.40 This bill has similarly languished in the House, and its sponsors are attempting to force a vote through a second discharge petition.41

Increasingly frustrated with Republican legislative leadership’s failure to act on any gun safety bills, Gov. Cooper signed an executive directive in August 2019 advising various parts of his administration to take nonlegislative action to help reduce gun violence, explaining that “the odds are long for our current legislature to make real changes.”42 The order included measures to improve record-sharing with the background check system, update the state’s suicide prevention plan with input from a coalition of stakeholders, and promote safe storage of guns.43

Michigan

Like North Carolina, Michigan’s districts are heavily skewed in favor of Republicans. In fact, Michigan Democrats have received a majority of votes for the state House since at least 2012 but have not come close to winning a majority of House seats.44 In the 2018 election, although Democratic candidates received 52.4 percent of the votes for state House and 51.3 percent of votes for state Senate, Republican candidates received majorities in both chambers, with 52.7 percent and 57.9 percent of the seats, respectively.45 Overall, as seen in Figure 1, Republican candidates received 48.1 percent of the total statewide votes for both the state House and Senate but 54.1 percent of the total seats.

One major concern in Michigan is the high number of gun-related suicides. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6,424 people in Michigan died by gun-related suicide from 2008 through 2017, meaning a gun suicide occurred in the state every 14 hours.46 To address this crisis, Michiganders are urging their state Legislature to enact ERPO legislation. Early research on the effect of ERPO laws has found that this measure is particularly effective at preventing gun-related suicides.47 A February 2019 poll by the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 70 percent of Michigan voters support the proposal, including 64 percent of Republicans.48

ERPO bills have been introduced in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature but have stalled in committee.49 In September 2019, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said the Senate ERPO bill would receive a committee hearing after the state budget was approved; however, to date, no hearing has been scheduled.50 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has expressly urged state lawmakers to pass this legislation, tweeting in August 2019: “No single law can prevent every instance of gun violence, but this is a commonsense step. We can’t wait idly by for an act of gun violence to devastate our state to demand action, we must act now. @Wittenberg4Rep [sponsor of the House bill], I look forward to signing Extreme Risk Protection Orders into law.”51

Inaction in the gerrymandered Virginia House of Delegates

In 2017, Republicans won 51 percent of seats in the Virginia House of Delegates with only 45.2 percent of the vote.52 This unearned victory has had a visible effect on gun violence legislation in the state. In January 2019, a package of multiple gun violence prevention bills was introduced for consideration in the regular legislative session and were systematically voted down by the Republican majority in the House Subcommittee on Militia, Police and Public Safety, ending any opportunity for legislative action on gun violence for the year.53 A few months later, when Gov. Ralph Northam (D) convened a special session of the legislature following a mass shooting at a municipal building in Virginia Beach,54 Republican leadership doubled down on its blanket refusal to give serious consideration to any measure to improve gun laws in the state. Although legislators filed 30 bills with proposals to address gun violence in this special session, the GOP-controlled Virginia Legislature abruptly adjourned after 90 minutes without considering a single proposal.55

Pennsylvania

In 2018, Democrats won the majority of votes for major-party candidates for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, receiving 54.1 percent of the vote.56 They also won a majority of votes in the state Senate. Although only half of the state Senate seats are up for election in each election year, Democrats received slightly more than 50 percent of the votes for state Senate candidates in the most recent 2016 and 2018 elections for each seat. Nonetheless, Republicans easily won a majority of seats in both chambers, controlling 54.2 percent of the seats in the House and 58 percent of the seats in the Senate.57 Overall, as seen in Figure 1, Pennsylvania Republicans received 48 percent of the statewide votes for both the state House and Senate but 54.9 percent of the total seats.

Republican control of the Pennsylvania Legislature has affected efforts to strengthen gun laws in the state. There have been robust grassroots advocacy efforts in Pennsylvania for years urging the legislature to make changes in light of devastating mass shootings, such as the October 2018 attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, as well as concentrated and persistent pockets of gun violence in some urban areas.58 In late 2018, the state legislature passed and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed the first bill related to gun policy in more than a decade: a modest measure that requires individuals barred from gun possession due to a domestic violence-related conviction or restraining order to surrender any guns in their possession to law enforcement, an attorney, or a gun dealer within 24 hours.59 However, this fell far short of the full package of legislation that advocates and pro-gun safety legislators have attempted to advance in recent years to address serious gaps in the state’s gun laws.

One of the biggest gaps in Pennsylvania’s gun laws allows individuals to buy and sell long guns without a background check. Legislation to close this gap has been introduced in every state legislative session since 2013 but has failed to advance beyond a referral to the House Judiciary Committee.60 The bill was introduced once again in the 2019–2020 legislative session but has not gone to a vote since being referred to the House Judiciary Committee in March 2019.61 A recent poll by Franklin & Marshall College found that 75 percent of registered voters in Pennsylvania support strengthening background checks.62

Like their peers in North Carolina and Michigan, Pennsylvanians have also been trying to pass a bill to create ERPOs. In the 2017–2018 legislative session, legislation to create an ERPO passed overwhelmingly in Pennsylvania’s House Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support63 but never advanced to receive a vote by the full House.64 An ERPO bill has been introduced again in the 2019–2020 session with the strong support of Gov. Wolf.65 However, this legislation has not advanced beyond a referral to the House Judiciary Committee in April 2019.66 In fact, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman (R) closed the door on the committee taking any action on this bill, proclaiming in September 2019, “We will not be considering [ERPO] in the House Judiciary Committee so long as Chairman Kauffman is chairman.”67

Frustration with the ERPO bill stalling in committee has led some members of the House to consider taking the more drastic step of trying to force a vote through a procedural maneuver called a discharge petition.68 In addition, Gov. Wolf has refused to let inaction by the state legislature preclude any progress on this issue, signing an executive order in August 2019 that established a special council on gun violence. The council will spearhead multiple initiatives focused on reducing community gun violence, combating mass shootings, and addressing domestic incidents of gun violence, including gun suicides.69 Still, in the absence of legislative action, there is a limit to the steps Gov. Wolf can take to protect Pennsylvania families from gun violence.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s 2018 elections demonstrate how gerrymandering can compound other anti-democratic practices to shift political outcomes. Although gerrymandering won Wisconsin Republicans a supermajority of seats in the House of Representatives—with Republicans gaining 63.6 percent of seats despite Democrats winning 54.2 percent of the major-party votes—it may only have contributed to Republican control of the Wisconsin Senate. There, Republican candidates won a narrow majority of the votes cast, with 51 percent of the major-party vote in the most recent elections for each seat, but won a much larger majority of seats at 60.6 percent.70 Were it not for recent efforts to depress voter turnout, including the 2015 passage of a voter ID law that disproportionately affected students and voters of color,71 Republican candidates might have fallen short of a majority of votes. Overall, as made clear in Figure 1, Republican candidates received less than half of the total major-party votes for state House and Senate (48.4 percent) while receiving far more than half of the total seats (62.9 percent).

In combination, gerrymandering and other anti-democratic practices may have artificially kept Republicans in control of the Wisconsin Legislature. This represents a significant missed opportunity to advance gun policy. Wisconsin has been the site of horrific acts of gun violence, including the 2012 hate-fueled attack at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek that killed six and the murder of Zina Daniel and four of her co-workers by her estranged husband at the spa where she worked.72 Enacting an ERPO law and expanding background checks for gun sales are key priorities for advocates and voters in Wisconsin.73 An August 2019 Marquette University Law School poll found that 80 percent of Wisconsin voters support both measures.74

Bills to enact both policies were introduced in the Senate and Assembly in fall 2019.75 After the Legislature failed to hold hearings or a committee vote on either, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced that he would call it into a special session on November 7, 2019, to take action on these bills.76 Republican leadership in both houses of the state Legislature accused the governor of “playing politics” and ended the special session less than one minute after it began, without holding debate on the two bills or any other proposal to address gun violence in the state.77 Rather than allowing debate, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) adjourned the session and asserted, “I don’t think these bills solve the issue of gun violence, there are many other things that play into that, including mental illness.”78

The prevalence of gerrymandering nationwide

Although Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin are extreme examples of gerrymandering, they are indicative of a much wider problem. Since the 2010 round of redistricting, there have been at least 36 instances in which a party won a majority of the seats in a state chamber while winning a minority of the major-party votes.79

Gerrymandering matters, and not only when it affects control of a legislative chamber. Each additional conservative or progressive legislator pulls policy outcomes in a more conservative or progressive direction. Recent research has shown that even the shift of a single legislator has a measurable effect on policy outcomes.80 Since 2010, there have been at least 96 instances in which a party won at least 10 percent more seats in a chamber than the percentage of overall votes that its candidates running for that chamber received.81 That is terrible news if one believes that legislatures should reflect the views of the public.

The good news is that there have been some positive developments in the states listed above. In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court found that the congressional districts were so gerrymandered that they violated the state constitution.82 A state court in North Carolina held that the state’s legislative districts were unconstitutional under the state constitution,83 though how that decision will apply to future districts is not entirely clear.84 In Michigan, voters passed a ballot initiative in November 2018 that will require future redistricting to be put in the hands of an independent commission, rather than those of incumbent politicians.85 Although the majority leadership in the Wisconsin Legislature is still firmly opposed to redistricting reform, there is a growing grassroots movement in the state, with 48 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties having passed measures in support of fair maps.86

However, most states still lack meaningful safeguards to prevent partisan gerrymandering. Where safeguards do exist, they often fail to fully ensure that voters will be accurately represented in the legislature.

How to end gerrymandering and ensure fair representation

Gerrymandering is a solvable problem, and the solution is relatively simple: Do not let politicians draw their own districts and require districts to represent the views of the public as accurately as possible.

The first step is to require independent commissions to draw the districts, free from the influence of political officeholders. Whenever politicians are involved in the redistricting process, they have a strong incentive to distort that process to their advantage. The easiest way to remove that temptation is to take redistricting entirely out of their hands and instead give that power to a nonpartisan entity without a vested interest in particular districts.

It is not enough to simply put district-drawing in the hands of an independent commission, however. For one thing, independence is difficult to ensure; there is always the possibility that political agendas will creep into the process. More importantly, even a well-intentioned commission can sometimes skew districts unintentionally. Democratic and Republican voters are not evenly distributed. Drawing simple, compact districts, for example, is likely to unintentionally “pack” progressive voters who are more commonly concentrated in urban areas.87

The way to ensure fair districts is to require fair districts. That is why the second step to solve gerrymandering is to establish redistricting criteria that create voter-determined districts.88 The goal is simple: Voters should be able to determine how districts are drawn on the basis of their votes. For example, if 55 percent of voters support a particular party, that party should receive as close as possible to 55 percent of the seats. When districts are fair, more votes generally means more seats.

Voter-determined districts should also be drawn to address other inequities in the current system. Communities of color have been underrepresented throughout American history and continue to be severely underrepresented in state legislatures.89 This underrepresentation is a result of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a long history of deliberate efforts to prevent communities of color from participating in the political process. Districts should be drawn to ensure fair representation for communities of color. Moreover, they should be drawn to ensure an adequate level of competition so that changes in voter preferences result in changes in the legislature.

Conclusion

Gerrymandering frustrates the will of the people. Fixing gerrymandering would clear the way for state legislatures to enact policies with broad public support, including laws that would help reduce gun violence. In a nation where the vast majority of voters support strengthening gun laws, one should expect stronger regulation of guns and more resources dedicated to ensuring public health and safety. But in the states described above, democracy is not working in the way that it should. The political party that holds power did not receive the majority of public support, and this electoral disconnect has significant legislative consequences. In these states, and across the country, every new tragic episode of gun violence is a reminder that more must be done to protect communities and remove the obstacle of partisan gerrymandering.

About the authors

Alex Tausanovitch is the director of Campaign Finance and Electoral Reform at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining the Center, he worked at the U.S. Department of Education and at the Federal Election Commission, where he advised commissioners on matters related to campaign finance law. His published work focuses on redistricting, lobbying, campaign finance, and other topics related to the health of democratic institutions. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from American University.

Chelsea Parsons is the vice president of Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress. Her work focuses on advocating for progressive laws and policies relating to gun violence prevention and the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local levels. In this role, she has helped develop measures to strengthen gun laws and reduce gun violence that have been included in federal and state legislation and executive actions. Prior to joining the Center, Parsons was general counsel to the New York City criminal justice coordinator, a role in which she helped develop and implement criminal justice initiatives and legislation in areas including human trafficking, sexual assault, family violence, firearms, identity theft, indigent defense, and justice system improvements. She previously served as an assistant New York state attorney general and a staff attorney clerk for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rukmani Bhatia is the policy analyst for Gun Violence Prevention at the Center for American Progress. Prior to joining the Center, she served the Obama administration in the U.S. Agency for International Development. Bhatia previously served as the inaugural Hillary R. Clinton research fellow at the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. She holds a master’s degree from Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a bachelor’s degree with honors from Wellesley College.

Endnotes

  1. Allison Anderman, “Gun Law Trendwatch: 2019 Mid-Year Review” (San Francisco: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 2019), available at https://lawcenter.giffords.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Giffords-Law-Center-2019-Mid-Year-Trendwatch.pdf.
  2. Gallup, “In Depth: Topics A to Z: Guns,” available at https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx (last accessed December 2019).
  3. Katherine Schaeffer, “Share of Americans who favor stricter gun laws has increased since 2017,” Pew Research Center, October 16, 2019, available at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/16/share-of-americans-who-favor-stricter-gun-laws-has-increased-since-2017/.
  4. Anderman, “Gun Law Trendwatch.”
  5. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Universal Background Checks: Summary of State Law,” available at https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/background-checks/universal-background-checks/#state (last accessed November 2019).
  6. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Extreme Risk Protection Orders: Summary of State Law,” available at https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/extreme-risk-protection-orders/#state (last accessed November 2019).
  7. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Domestic Violence & Firearms: Summary of State Law,” available at https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/domestic-violence-firearms/#state (last accessed November 2019).
  8. Center for American Progress, “Frequently Asked Questions About Universal Background Checks” (Washington: 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2018/11/30/461385/frequently-asked-questions-universal-background-checks.
  9. Center for American Progress, “Make Extreme Risk Protection Orders Available in Every State” (Washington: 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2018/03/23/448347/make-extreme-risk-protection-orders-available-every-state.
  10. Ibid.; Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” available at https://lawcenter.giffords.org/gun-laws/policy-areas/who-can-have-a-gun/extreme-risk-protection-orders (last accessed November 2019).
  11. Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (June 15, 1964), available at https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/377/533/.
  12. Associated Press, “Number of states using redistricting commissions growing,” March 21, 2019, available at https://apnews.com/4d2e2aea7e224549af61699e51c955dd.
  13. For the People Act of 2019, H.R. 1, 116th Cong., 1st sess. (March 8, 2019), available at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1/actions.
  14. Ella Nilsen, “Senate Democrats unveiled an anti-corruption companion bill. Mitch McConnell is already blocking it.”, Vox, March 27, 2019, available at https://www.vox.com/2019/3/27/18284171/senate-democrats-anti-corruption-hr1-schumer-mcconnell.
  15. Vann R. Newkirk II, “How Redistricting Became a Technological Arms Race,” The Atlantic, October 28, 2017, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/gerrymandering-technology-redmap-2020/543888/.
  16. Dave Daley, “How Democrats Gerrymandered Their Way to Victory in Maryland,” The Atlantic, June 25, 2017, available at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/how-deep-blue-maryland-shows-redistricting-is-broken/531492/.
  17. In part, this was the result of a deliberate GOP strategy, known as “REDMAP,” to closely target divided state legislators ahead of the 2010 redistricting cycle. See David Daley, Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2017).
  18. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018,” available at https://www.klarnerpolitics.org/ (last accessed November 2019).
  19. Ruth Greenwood and others, “Designing Independent Redistricting Commissions” (Washington: Campaign Legal Center, 2018), p. 21, available at https://campaignlegal.org/document/designing-independent-redistricting-commissions.
  20. Jowei Chen and Jonathan Rodden, “Unintentional Gerrymandering: Political Geography and Electoral Bias in Legislatures,” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8 (3) (2013): 239–269, available at https://sites.tufts.edu/vrdi/files/2018/06/Chen-Rodden-unintentional.pdf.
  21. Ibid.
  22. See Fair Districts PA, “How Redistricting Works,” available at https://fairdistrictspa.com/the-problem/how-redistricting-works (last accessed November 2019).
  23. Alex Tausanovitch, “Voter-Determined Districts: Ending Gerrymandering and Ensuring Fair Representation” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2019), pp. 9–11, available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/democracy/reports/2019/05/09/468916/voter-determined-districts/.
  24. Chelsea Parsons and others, “America’s Youth Under Fire: The Devastating Impact of Gun Violence on Young People” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2018), available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/guns-crime/reports/2018/05/04/450343/americas-youth-fire/.
  25. Gerrymandering sometimes overtly discriminates on the basis of race. For a short discussion of gerrymanders that exclude communities of color, see Tausanovitch, “Voter-Determined Districts.”
  26. Sadly, although the U.S. Supreme Court acknowledged the severity of North Carolina’s partisan gerrymander, it decided by a vote of 5-4 that federal courts could not intervene. See Alex Tausanovitch, “SCOTUS Refused to Take On Partisan Gerrymandering. Time for Legislators to Step Up,” Morning Consult, July 1, 2019, available at https://morningconsult.com/opinions/scotus-refused-to-take-on-partisan-gerrymandering-time-for-legislators-to-step-up/.
  27. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018.”
  28. Christian R. Grose and others, “The Worst Partisan Gerrymanders in U.S. State Legislatures” (Los Angeles: University of Southern California Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, 2019), available at https://issuu.com/robquigley/docs/the_worst_gerrymanders_of_2018_us_state_legislatur.
  29. Center for American Progress, “North Carolina Gun Violence” (Washington: 2019), available at https://cdn.americanprogress.org/content/uploads/2019/11/18061937/NorthCarolinaGunViolence-Factsheet.pdf.
  30. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Annual Gun Law Scorecard: North Carolina,” available at https://lawcenter.giffords.org/scorecard/#NC (last accessed November 2019).
  31. Joe Killian, “New poll illuminates fears of North Carolinians from shootings to unemployment,” NC Policy Watch, April 12, 2019, available at http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2019/04/12/new-poll-illuminates-fears-of-north-carolinians.
  32. Civitas Institute, “North Carolinians for stricter gun control,” Press release, September 19, 2019, available at https://www.nccivitas.org/polling/north-carolinians-stricter-gun-control.
  33. North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, “Mission/Vision,” available at http://www.ncgv.org/mission (last accessed November 2019).
  34. Kurtis Lee, “Here’s what you need to know about ‘red-flag’ laws, the latest trend in gun control,” Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2019, available at https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-08-14/nationwide-red-flag-gun-laws-have-increased-but-do-they-work.
  35. North Carolina General Assembly, “House Bill 976: Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 2017-2018 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2017/H976 (last accessed November 2019); North Carolina General Assembly, “Senate Bill 734, Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 2017-2018 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2017/SB%20734 (last accessed November 2019).
  36. North Carolina General Assembly, “House Bill 454: Allow ERPOs to Save Lives & Prevent Suicides. 2019-2020 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/HB454 (last accessed November 2019).
  37. North Carolina General Assembly, “Senate Bill 565: Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 2017-2018 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/S565.
  38. Michael Hyland, “Gov. Cooper signs gun safety order; calls for action on ‘red flag’ bill,” CBS 17, August 12, 2019, available at https://www.cbs17.com/news/local-news/wake-county-news/gov-cooper-signs-gun-safety-legislation-calls-for-action-on-red-flag-bill.
  39. Travis Fain, “‘Red flag’ gun laws get GOP support in concept, not practice,” WRAL, August 9, 2019, available at https://www.wral.com/red-flag-gun-laws-get-gop-support-in-concept-not-practice/18559624.
  40. North Carolina General Assembly, “House Bill 86: Gun Violence Prevention Act. 2019-2020 Session,” available at https://www.ncleg.gov/BillLookUp/2019/HB%2086 (last accessed November 2019).
  41. Jon Evans, “Current firearm bills unlikely to move in NC House Committee,” WECT News 6, August 7, 2019, available at https://www.wect.com/2019/08/07/current-firearm-bills-unlikely-move-nc-house-committee.
  42. North Carolina Office of the Governor, “Governor Cooper Signs Gun Safety Executive Directive,” Press release, August 12, 2019, available at https://governor.nc.gov/news/governor-cooper-signs-gun-safety-executive-directive.
  43. Ibid.
  44. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018.”
  45. Ibid.
  46. CAP analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Injury Prevention & Control Data and Statistics (WISQARS): Fatal Injury Data,” available at https://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/fatal.html (last accessed December 2019).
  47. Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, “Data behind Extreme Risk Protective Order Policies: A Look at Connecticut’s Risk-Warrant Law” (Washington: 2017), available at http://efsgv.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/CT-Risk-Warrant-Data-One-pager-ERPO-9-15-17-FINAL.pdf; Jeffrey W. Swanson and others, “Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut’s Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does It Prevent Suicides?”, Law and Contemporary Problems 80 (2) (2017): 179–208, available at https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=4830&context=lcp.
  48. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, “MIAAP Poll Shows Support for ‘Red Flag’ Gun Laws,” available at https://www.mafp.com/news/miaap-poll-shows-support-for-red-flag-gun-laws (last accessed November 2019).
  49. Michigan Legislature, “House Bill 4283 (2019),” available at http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2019-HB-4283 (last accessed November 2019); Michigan Legislature, “Senate Bill 0156 (2019),” available at https://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(p10tfyfl3qh2yyrhkubflq0k))/mileg.aspx?page=getobject&objectname=2019-SB-0156&query=on (last accessed November 2019).
  50. Mark Cavitt, “Republicans warming up to Michigan ‘red flag’ gun law proposal,” The Oakland Press, September 13, 2019, available at https://www.theoaklandpress.com/news/local/republicans-warming-up-to-michigan-red-flag-gun-law-proposal/article_ec2b36a2-d648-11e9-8628-b3c3db0b193c.html.
  51. Gretchen Whitmer, @GovWhitmer, August 5, 2019, 4:51 p.m. ET, Twitter, available at https://twitter.com/GovWhitmer/status/1158480725848592386.
  52. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018.”
  53. Graham Moomaw, “Virginia House panel votes down more than a dozen gun bills, including red-flag proposal,” The News & Advance, January 17, 2019, available at https://www.newsadvance.com/news/state/virginia-house-panel-votes-down-more-than-a-dozen-gun/article_3b0e7de9-dc32-55e5-9265-b8d4639e3820.html.
  54. Gregory S. Schneider, “Gov. Ralph Northam will convene special session of Virginia legislature to take up gun control,” The Washington Post, June 4, 2019, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/virginia-gov-northam-calls-for-special-session-of-legislature-to-take-up-gun-control/2019/06/04/40efb24c-86d2-11e9-a870-b9c411dc4312_story.html.
  55. Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella, and Antonio Olivo, “Gun debate ends abruptly in Virginia as GOP-controlled legislature adjourns after 90 minutes,” The Washington Post, July 9, 2019, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/gun-debate-hits-full-throttle-in-richmond-as-legislature-convenes/2019/07/09/caf20590-a1d4-11e9-bd56-eac6bb02d01d_story.html.
  56. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018.”
  57. Ibid. Since half of the Pennsylvania Senate is elected every two years, this figure was calculated using the combined votes and seats from 2016 and 2018.
  58. Jorge L. Ortiz, “Shooting of 10-year-old boy is the latest sign of Philadelphia’s surge in violent crime,” USA Today, November 7, 2019, available at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/11/07/philadelphia-violent-crime-surging-10-year-old-boy-latest-victim/2523822001/.
  59. Associated Press, “Gov. Wolf signs tougher rules for guns in domestic violence cases,” The Patriot-News, October 12, 2018, available at https://www.pennlive.com/politics/2018/10/gov_wolf_signs_tougher_rules_f.html.
  60. Pennsylvania General Assembly, “House Bill 1010; Regular Session 2013-2014,” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/bill_history.cfm?syear=2013&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1010 (last accessed November 2019); Pennsylvania General Assembly, “Regular Session 2015-2016: House Bill 1010, ” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2015&sInd=0&body=h&type=b&bn=1010 (available at November 2019).
  61. Pennsylvania General Assembly, “House Bill 673; Regular Session 2019-2020,” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/bill_history.cfm?syear=2019&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=673 (last accessed November 2019).
  62. Center for Opinion Research, “Franklin & Marshall College Poll: Summary of Findings” (Lancaster, PA: Franklin & Marshall College, 2019), available at https://www.fandm.edu/uploads/files/93374337988676509-f-m-poll-release-october-2019.pdf.
  63. Pennsylvania House of Representatives, “House Committee Roll Call Votes,” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/RCC/PUBLIC/listVoteSummaryH.cfm?sYear=2017&sInd=0&cteeCde=24&theDate=06/19/2018&RollCallId=1726 (last accessed November 2019).
  64. Pennsylvania General Assembly, “Bill Information – Votes House Bill 2227; Regular Session 2017-2018,” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/bill_history.cfm?syear=2017&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=2227 (last accessed November 2019).
  65. Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, “Gov. Wolf Calls for Continued Action Against Gun Violence, Joins Moms Demand Action at Capital Rally,” Press release, April 8, 2019, available at https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/gov-wolf-calls-for-continued-action-against-gun-violence-joins-moms-demand-action-at-capitol-rally.
  66. Pennsylvania General Assembly, “House Bill 1075; Regular Session 2019-2020,” available at https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/bill_history.cfm?syear=2019&sind=0&body=H&type=B&bn=1075 (last accessed November 2019).
  67. Charles Thompson, “House Committee chairman opens, (and maybe closes?) gun control debate in Pennsylvania,” The Patriot-News, September 24 2019, available at https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/09/house-committee-chairman-opens-and-maybe-closes-gun-control-debate-in-pennsylvania.html.
  68. Ford Turner, “Backers of proposed ‘red flag’ gun law in Pennsylvania support end-around to get things moving,” The Morning Call, October 14, 2019, available at https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/mc-nws-pa-red-flag-20191014-5wf4f6xq55bybgzfhns5wpltlq-story.html.
  69. Ford Turner, “Gov. Wolf signs executive order on gun violence prevention, calls for lawmakers to fix ‘weak gun laws’,” The Morning Call, August 16, 2019, available at https://www.mcall.com/news/pennsylvania/capitol-ideas/mc-nws-pa-wolf-guns-20190816-e2tigpkvrvgi3o4zhewsp5avnu-story.html; Pennsylvania Office of the Governor, “Pennsylvania Governor Wolf to Sign Sweeping Executive Order to Reduce Gun Violence,” Press release, August 14, 2019, available at https://www.governor.pa.gov/newsroom/pennsylvania-governor-wolf-to-sign-sweeping-executive-order-to-reduce-gun-violence.
  70. The Wisconsin Senate has staggered terms, so about half of the Senate was up for election in 2016, while the other half was up for election in 2018.
  71. Cameron Smith, “Voter ID tied to lower Wisconsin turnout; students, people of color, elderly most affected,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 30, 2018, available at https://www.jsonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2018/09/30/voter-id-tied-lower-wisconsin-turnout/1480862002/.
  72. Steven Yaccino, Michael Schwirtz, and Marc Santora, “Gunman Kills 6 at a Sikh Temple Near Milwaukee,” The New York Times, August 5, 2012, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/06/us/shooting-reported-at-temple-in-wisconsin.html; Alex Perez, Matthew Jaffe, and Alyssa Newcomb, “Wisconsin Spa Shooting Suspect Radcliffe Haughton Wanted to Leave the State,” ABC News, October 22, 2012, available at https://abcnews.go.com/US/wisconsin-spa-shooting-suspect-radcliffe-haughton-wanted-leave/story?id=17531973.
  73. Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, “Policies to Save Lives,” available at https://waveedfund.org/2019/08/28/policies-to-save-lives-2 (last accessed November 2019).
  74. Brady Carlson and Associated Press, “Marquette Poll: Trump’s Approval Rating Remains Below 50 Percent In Wisconsin: Poll Also Shows Democrat Joe Biden Leads President Trump,” Wisconsin Public Radio, September 4, 2019, available at https://www.wpr.org/marquette-poll-trumps-approval-rating-remains-below-50-percent-wisconsin.
  75. Wisconsin State Legislature, “2019 Senate Bill 530,” available at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb530 (last accessed November 2019); Wisconsin State Legislature, “2019 Assembly Bill 573,” available at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/proposals/reg/asm/bill/ab573 (last accessed November 2019); Wisconsin State Legislature, “2019 Assembly Bill 431,” available at https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/proposals/reg/asm/bill/ab431 (last accessed November 2019).
  76. Alana Watson and Associated Press, “Gov. Tony Evers Call Special Session On Gun Control: Evers Wants Legislature To Take Up Pair Of Bills,” Wisconsin Public Radio, October 21, 2019, available at https://www.wpr.org/gov-tony-evers-calls-special-session-gun-control.
  77. Laurel White, “Republicans Bypass Governor’s Special Session On Gun Laws: State Assembly, Senate Immediately Adjourn Session, Hold No Debate Or Votes,” Wisconsin Public Radio, November 7, 2019, available at https://www.wpr.org/republicans-bypass-governors-special-session-gun-laws.
  78. Ibid.
  79. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018.” Note that this figure excludes a number of states where relevant data were unavailable.
  80. Devin Caughey, Chris Tausanovitch, and Christopher Warshaw, “Partisan Gerrymandering and the Political Process: Effects on Roll-Call Voting and State Policies,” Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 16 (4) (2017): 453–469, available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/elj.2017.0452.
  81. Authors’ calculations based on data purchased from Klarner Politics, “State Legislative Election Returns, 1967–2018.” Note that this figure excludes a number of states where relevant data were unavailable.
  82. Jonathan Lai and Liz Navratil, “Why Pa.’s gerrymandered map went too far, according to state Supreme Court,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 7, 2018, available at https://www.inquirer.com/philly/news/pennsylvania/pa-supreme-court-releases-gerrymandering-opinion-2011-map-violates-free-and-equal-elections-20180207.html?mobi=true.
  83. Common Cause v. Lewis, Wake County Superior Court of North Carolina, No. 18 CVS 014001 (September 3, 2019), available at http://www.commoncause.org/north-carolina/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/09/Common-Cause-v.-Lewis-trial-court-decision-9.3.19.pdf.
  84. Law professor and election law expert Richard Hasen described the decision as setting “some meaningful limits” on self-interested gerrymandering by state legislators. See Felicia Sonmez and Robert Barnes, “North Carolina court rules partisan state legislative districts unconstitutional,” The Washington Post, September 3, 2019, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/north-carolina-court-rules-partisan-state-legislative-districts-unconstitutional/2019/09/03/4a137034-ce8a-11e9-8c1c-7c8ee785b855_story.html.
  85. Lee DeVito, “Gerrymandered no more: Michigan approves redistricting reform,” Detroit Metro Times, November 7, 2018, available at https://www.metrotimes.com/news-hits/archives/2018/11/06/gerrymandered-no-more-michigan-approves-redistricting-reform.
  86. Wisconsin State Journal, “Momentum keeps building for fair maps,” October 6, 2019, available at https://madison.com/wsj/opinion/editorial/momentum-keeps-building-for-fair-maps/article_04feb1ca-99d6-5188-a6f3-211d6b1eacb4.html.
  87. Chen and Rodden, “Unintentional Gerrymandering.”
  88. Tausanovitch, “Voter-Determined Districts.”
  89. Amber Phillips, “The striking lack of diversity in state legislatures,” The Washington Post, January 26, 2016, available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/26/the-real-problem-with-diversifying-congress-state-legislatures-are-even-less-diverse/.

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