Conservative media seized on Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams' statement that she supports banning AR-15 assault weapons to imply that she is out of touch with Georgia voters, but polling indicates that a majority of Georgians support an assault weapons ban.
Abrams expressed support for an assault weapons ban during the October 30 broadcast of ABC’s "The View." The segment took place just days after a gunman used an AR-15 and several handguns to kill 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA — likely the deadliest anti-Semitic massacre in U.S. history, and the latest in a long line of incidents in which assault weapons were used to carry out mass murder.
Responding to a question from "View" co-host Meghan McCain, Abrams said:
I believe in a background check. I believe in a three-day waiting period. I believe that those who commit domestic violence and stalking should not have access to weapons. I do not believe that weapons of mass destruction like the AR-15 belong in civilian hands.
McCain then asked a misleading question — falsely suggesting that legislation banning assault weapons must entail confiscating weapons already owned by — but Abrams didn’t take the bait.
But breathless articles and commentary from conservative media also followed:
- Conservative website RedState ran with the headline “Gubernatorial Democrat Wants To Ban Your Favorite Rifle.”
- AWR Hawkins, who covers the gun beat for Breitbart.com, wrote up Abrams’ remarks and said on Twitter, “Wake up #GeorgiaVoters, @staceyabrams says she's not anti-gun, she just wants to take your AR-15s, enforce waiting periods, expand background checks, repeal campus carry… .” Contrary to Hawkins’ tweet, Abrams did not actually say that she wanted to take people’s AR-15s.
- The Daily Caller also went with a confiscation angle for its write-up, using the headline “Stacey Abrams says she’d ban the AR-15, dodges the question on confiscation.”
Several other conservative outlets devoted full stories to Abrams' remarks, including The Washington Free Beacon, The Daily Wire, and The Federalist. Their consistent implication was that Abrams’ position is at odds with how people in Georgia feel about the AR-15.
According to a May poll conducted by 11 Alive/SurveyUSA, 51 percent of Georgians favored “a ban on assault-style rifles such as the AR-15,” while 37 percent opposed and 12 percent were not sure. The survey also found 72 percent support for raising the age to buy a handgun from 18 to 21; 84 percent support for continuing to require a permit to carry a concealed gun in public (the NRA has attempted to remove that requirement); and 46 percent opposition to arming teachers compared to 40 percent support for such a measure.
An April poll conducted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News included “perhaps the most striking finding” that “45 percent of likely Republican primary voters who were questioned April 19-26 want stricter rules covering the sale of firearms and 46 percent want those rules to stay the same,” and that a “separate AJC/Channel 2 poll released last week showed roughly 90 percent of likely Democratic primary voters want stricter firearms regulations.”
The right-wing media write-ups of Abrams' comments are an attempt to tap into the tired notion that candidates who support gun safety measures doom their electoral chances — a talking point endlessly pushed by the NRA that sometimes creeps into so-called conventional wisdom promoted by the mainstream media. There was never any truth to the claim -- as proved by actual statistical analyses of federal elections instead of punditry — and public attitudes on the gun issue have shifted in recent years amid growing frustration over an American epidemic of gun violence.