Hagan should welcome NRA opposition

The NRA Political Victory Fund is going all in for Thom Tillis. It’s backing the Republican state House speaker with a $1.4 million ad campaign that seeks to help him unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

For a candidate who is a woman and a Democrat, the big hug for Tillis by a national gun group that supports virtually no controls on handguns and assault weapons should be good news. Women voters, who support Hagan by a wide margin, generally favor more gun restrictions. So do Democrats. Yet the Hagan camp’s response to the NRA ads is to tout the senator’s pro-gun record.

Hagan’s campaign put out a statement saying the pro-Tillis ad “completely ignores Kay’s strong support of the Second Amendment.” The statement cited several examples of bills she has supported that would lessen gun restrictions in some cases.

Hagan’s wariness of being cast as anti-gun is understandable. For one, she has staked out a position as a defender of the Second Amendment since she first ran for Senate in 2008. Her website said then: “Responsible gun ownership is not only part of the fabric of my state, but it is also a fundamental constitutional right. I pledge to continue to protect their rights when I am in the U.S. Senate.”

And there’s another reason: Hagan can count votes. When the Elon University Poll asked 419 registered voters in 2013 what would reduce violent crime more, a ban on guns or more law-abiding people with guns, the results were overwhelming. Sixty-two percent favored more law-abiding people with guns, 25 percent supported a ban and 13 percent didn’t know or refused to answer.

The pro-gun illusion

It would appear there’s no political gain to be had in going against guns in any way in North Carolina. But that’s not really the case. Other questions in the poll showed clear majorities in support of limits. Ninety-two percent favored criminal background checks for gun buyers at gun shows and in private sales. Eighty-six percent favored stronger enforcement of existing gun laws. Sixty-two percent favored a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. Nearly 60 percent favored a ban on Internet ammunition sales and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Hagan has tried to stake out a “moderate” position on guns as a “red state” senator. But the truth is that the current state of gun laws is wildly immoderate, allowing for a radical freedom of access to handguns, assault weapons and endless rounds of ammunition. A moderate, on the gun issue, must be in favor of moving the laws back toward sensible limits. Secondly, North Carolina is not a red state, and politicians shouldn’t be cowed into thinking that this crucial issue is one they should avoid or, worse, one on which they should pander to the NRA .

Gun mayhem continues

In recent days, a man in Florida with a criminal history fatally shot his daughter and six grandchildren. A man fired from a UPS package center in Alabama returned and killed two employees and himself. A mentally unstable intruder who made his way into the White House was found to have 800 rounds of ammunition in his car. In Fayetteville, a man with a handgun was arrested for three separate shootings in one night. In Greensboro, there were three unrelated fatal shootings in two days.

Gun violence is a chronic problem in the nation and in North Carolina. If Tillis wants to be glorified by the NRA as a senator who will do nothing about it, that’s his choice. But many voters in North Carolina, indeed a majority on some aspects of gun regulation, want a senator who is committed to standing up to the distortion and demagoguery of the NRA and will stand with those who want to do something to decrease gun violence.