Following a presentation about gun ownership in one of my high school classes, I hesitantly raised my hand to share some thoughts, only to go on a long-winded tangent about why we so desperately need more sensible gun control legislation. I’m not sure anyone was listening, but I was able to talk about something that, as a seventeen-year-old, I have seemingly no control over. It’s a conversation I have frequently with my mom, because even though few of my school friends talk about the issue, it’s one that we both feel is important to continue.
It’s frustrating that time and time again Congress seems to only gather up enough energy to offer “thoughts and prayers” after a tragedy like Orlando yet continuously fail to take real action. I may not be old enough to vote, but I can encourage those who can to vote for candidates who will make a change regarding our country’s gun laws. It can be tedious and time-consuming to do research on those running for election or re-election, so I made a list of eight candidates running for Senate who, if elected, could shift the balance of power and work to finally enact gun control that 90 percent of Americans already support.
Besides the fact that her opponent has an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA), as well as an endorsement from the organization, Ross—an attorney and former state representative—has expressed her support for common sense gun laws following the shooting in Orlando. Ross has to walk a fine line between pledging full support for gun control and honoring the authority of the Second Amendment, as she is from a state where 57 percent of citizens believe protecting the constitutional right to own guns is greater than protecting citizens from gun violence. However, Ross said she believes that now is the time to start talking about gun safety, specifically citing background checks as a way to keep guns out of the hands of terrorists.
Like Ross, Cortez Masto comes from a gun-friendly state, so her ability to support all proposed gun legislation is limited if she hopes to be elected come November. However, when legislation was proposed in Nevada that would allow students over 21 to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, Cortez Masto—Nevada’s former attorney general—came out in ardent opposition. Additionally, she lobbied for background checks in 2013 and states on her website that she supports “background checks [as] a common sense proposal to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.”
Despite his previous ties to the NRA, Ohio’s former governor has changed his position recently on gun control, and now is running against current Sen. Rob Portman. While Strickland’s current policies on gun control may come at a suspiciously convenient time for his election bid, a spokesperson of Strickland’s insists that “Ted’s views about gun violence and gun safety have been deeply influenced as a result of the multiple horrific incidents of gun violence that our country has suffered.” Additionally, his opponent vetoed a bill back in 2013 that required simple background checks for commercial gun sales. A vote for Strickland gets Portman out of office.
Like many others, Judge believes that if someone has been deemed too dangerous to fly a plane then that person shouldn’t be able to buy an assault rifle. Despite flaws in the no-fly list—a problem that Congress should have the intelligence to resolve—the intention remains: if the government considers you a threat to your country, then you probably shouldn’t be able to purchase a weapon that could validate that threat.
According to a poll by the Huffington Post, Hassan only has a slight edge over incumbent Kelly Ayotte, and the New Hampshire senate race is considered to be one of the most competitive this election cycle. However, throughout Ayotte’s time in the Senate—since 2011—she has made zero effort to pass legislation concerning gun ownership and received an A rating from the NRA. In contrast, in 2015, Gov. Hassan vetoed a law in the New Hampshire legislature that would’ve allowed permitless concealed carry in her home state.
I was hesitant to put Arizona on this list because I assumed John McCain was a for-sure win for the state. However, in recent polls, Kirkpatrick has closed in upon McCain’s lead. Additionally, John McCain has received hefty support from the NRA throughout his time in the Senate, which is why he often deflects commentary after mass shootings. Kirkpatrick, however, has made comments that reflect her ability to recognize the shortcomings of congressional action. She knows that Congress needs to close loopholes that allow terrorists and criminals to get guns and recognizes that the gun lobby’s control over Congress has allowed for too much inaction.
After a shooting at a screening of Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck, the cousins partnered up to create a proposal that would attempt to prevent similar future incidents. The proposal advocated keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Schumer has been a longstanding advocate of gun control and has helped bring bills to the floor that would expand background checks.
Like Schumer, Murphy is in little danger of losing his seat in the Senate. He has been an outspoken advocate for gun control since the Sandy Hook shooting took place in his home state of Connecticut. Murphy’s most recent congressional efforts began shortly after the shooting in Orlando, when he filibustered in order to get proposed gun control measures to a vote in the Senate. The page on his website devoted to this issue states that “the gun lobby may be powerful, but I will not rest until we pass comprehensive legislation to keep guns away from criminals, take military-style weapons off our streets, increase alternatives to violence, and fix our broken mental health system.”
Schumer and Murphy made my list not so much to encourage you to vote for them specifically, but to encourage you to vote for candidates like them. If 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to find candidates who believe the same. Also, while this list only contains candidates for the Senate, there are many other people up for election and reelection this November as well. Find your local races and look for candidates who will make the change we so often fight for on social media. Choose wisely and choose candidates, who above all else, will keep us safe.
Erin Neil is a rising high school senior from Los Angeles. She is passionate about politics and journalism and one day hopes to be the White House Press Secretary. When not fulfilling her role as Student Body Vice President for her high school, Erin works in the costume department helping with the school plays. She hopes to attend college in New York, write for her college newspaper, and study political science.