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How gerrymandering and gun control go hand in hand

At first blush, you would not think gerrymandering has anything to do with expanding criminal background checks to all firearms.

The two, however, are linked. And, for backers of the proposed law, the harsh reality is that eliminating politically drawn voting district lines may be the only real hope they have to implement their plan.

The emotions were running high in a state Senate committee room recently when the anti-gun-violence caucus staged a news conference to make the purchase of all guns subject to that background check.

“These are my people,” smiled state Rep. Robert Wittenberg, D-Oakland County.

For about five years, he and his liked-minded Democratic colleagues have declared war on gun violence. And, for five years, other than a feel-good feeling, they have squat to show for it in the GOP/NRA-dominated Legislature.

At the Senate event, the room was packed with women wearing red shirts declaring their disdain for guns that hurt folks — 11,000 gun-related deaths a year, they told reporters.

The audience gave three standing ovations, especially when two speakers shared their personal loss of close relatives. State Rep. Brenda Carter, D-Detroit, lost a nephew and then her son to gun violence, and the audience individually and collectively embraced her.

But you could not find a Republican lawmaker within a hundred miles of the event.

The anti-gun-violence caucus has no Republican members, and Mr. Wittenberg conceded that his proposal faces an uphill climb, because, without GOP votes, his bill is dead.

Rep. Carter was asked about Republicans who were not on board.

“See this necklace,” she asked a reporter, as she pulled out a gold chain necklace from around her heck. “When my son died, the Republicans gave me this necklace, and I wear it every single day. And what that tells me is this is not a partisan issue. It’s a human issue.”

Reality check: Republcians chipping in for a meaningful gesture is not the same as putting up a yes vote to do what Ms. Carter and friends want, for to do so would bring down the wrath of the NRA.

In fact, moments after the event, state Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Macomb County, declared that, if this bill ever gets to his state Senate Judiciary Committee, he “will have to be convinced that this saves lives, (and) I’m not there, yet.”

In other words, he stopped just short of declaring expanded criminal checks for AK-47s and other assault weapons DOA.

Which brings us back to gerrymandering.

Every time the GOP had the votes to construct voting district lines, they would make sure their party had more voters in a majority of districts so Democrats could never win enough seats to get control of the state House.

Under that system, the NRA had a stranglehold, because, if you were a Republican running, you knew that it was the primary election that was more important than the general election.

That’s because, in the general, there would never be enough Democrats in the gerrymandered districts to defeat you. Hence, if you favored anything that even smelled like gun control, the NRA would endorse another Republican in the primary, and you’d be out of luck.

But now, supposedly, under a new, so-called “independent and nonpartisan” method for drawing district lines, the NRA may still have a strong voice in the primary, but, if the general election is not slanted in favor of the GOP — or Democrats, for that matter — one-issue groups such as the NRA, Right to Life, or organized labor will not have a lock on the outcome.

So, without the 20 state Senate votes and the 56 they need in the state House, background checks will only be on pistols.

However, if 90% of the voters favor the measure, which Mr. Wittenberg says is so, supposedly a fair fight between two political parties in a general election should produce enough lawmakers to pass the law, with or without the NRA.

In 2022, the first test of the new redistricting system, we’ll see if that’s happens.

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