Gun Group Fails Miserably In Its Attempt To Blame Smart Guns For Recent Election Losses

The gun industry's trade group is claiming Democratic Massachusetts attorney general candidate Warren Tolman's September 9 primary defeat occurred because of his support for smart gun technology. But the candidate who won the primary also backs smart guns and attacked Tolman during the race for not supporting the technology enough.

In a September 16 column for the “Guns and Gear” section of conservative website The Daily Caller headlined “Leaders Of Smart Gun Mandate Movement Lose Primaries,” National Shooting Sports Foundation senior vice president Larry Keane claimed that Tolman and Massachusetts Democratic congressional candidate John Tierney both lost recent primary races after supporting smart gun technology.

Keane wrote, “Besides their recent primary losses, what other striking similarity exists between these two outliers? Both candidates were staunch supporters of a mandate for so-called 'smart gun' technology. ”

One problem: during the campaign Tolman was attacked by opponent Maura Healey after backing away from mandating smart gun technology. According to a July 27 Healey campaign press release, “Democratic candidate for Attorney General Maura Healey today expressed disappointment that her primary opponent is weakening his position on mandating smart gun technology.”

Tolman was accused by Healey of not supporting smart gun technology vigorously enough after telling a local newspaper that he only supported mandating the technology on “some” guns. In her campaign press release, Healey attacked Toman for allegedly changing his position while extolling the virtues of smart gun technology:

Healey responded to the apparent flip just 43 days from the primary with the following statement:

“I'm disappointed that my opponent appears to have changed his position on mandating smart gun technology and hope he isn't bowing to political pressure on a critically important issue like gun violence. The fact is, smart gun technology holds the promise of saving lives. That's why smart gun legislation has always been one piece of my comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. There's no quick or easy fix to gun violence but you can't lose your will with 43 days left in the campaign, not when we see the impact on children, families and neighborhoods across the state. That's not the leadership our state needs.”

Smart guns were not a major campaign issue in the congressional race that Keane cited. According to The Boston Globe, Tierney “has been politically vulnerable since 2010.” The words “smart gun” do not appear on Tierney opponent Seth Moulton's website. However the eventual Democratic victor clearly did not run on a pro-gun platform, writing on Twitter during the campaign, “I don't think we need smart guns. We need fewer guns.”

The gun industry, the National Rifle Association, and conservative media routinely claim that supporting gun safety measures spells disaster for politicians at the polls. Often this false narrative is parroted by mainstream media as conventional wisdom on gun politics. However, statistical analyses have proven that neither the NRA's endorsement nor campaign contributions are significant factors in election outcomes. In fact, during the 2012 federal elections, more than 95 percent of the NRA's campaign spending went to races where the NRA's preferred candidate lost. Still the myth of NRA electoral dominance persists, in this case, egging on the outlandish claims of the gun industry's trade group.