In addition to the local and national elections on Nov. 8, voters in some states saw referendums on gun control and the death penalty on the ballot.
Referendums on increased gun control were victorious in California, Washington and Nevada, while one failed in Maine. The firearm referendums aimed at creating tighter regulations on gun ownership, ranging from increased background checks to outlawing large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, a gun rights advocacy group, said voters were uninformed about what the measures would actually mean.
“The reality is that so-called universal background checks are desired... for one reason and one reason only, and that is to run as many transactions through the National Instant (Criminal Background) Check System in order to try and create a federal gun registration system,” he said.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System is used to determine who is eligible to purchase a firearm. Valone said the FBI has illegally used data from this system in the past.
Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, was pleased with the results of the referendums.
“The general trend on that initiative is that the voters were clear — they want gun violence prevention, that they want common sense gun reform,” she said.
She said North Carolina gun regulations are stricter than many other states. North Carolina requires concealed carry permits and mandates background checks for citizens purchasing a handgun.
Other ballot referendums put capital punishment to a vote. Nebraska reinstated the death penalty, which had been repealed by the legislature in 2015. Oklahoma voted to make it harder to repeal the death penalty, while California failed to pass a referendum that would have repealed capital punishment.
Kristin Collins, a spokesperson at The Center for Death Penalty Litigation, said despite the results, there is still a trend toward decreasing support for the death penalty.
“I don’t think it changes the fact that the death penalty is really on the wane across the country,” she said.
Frank Baumgartner, a professor of political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, said capital punishment has become more of a practical issue than a moral one. He said there is little data showing a negative correlation between the death penalty and crime rates.
“The thing that’s come around to be transformative in the debate in the last 20 years is people have stopped talking so much about the abstract issues of morality and the abstract theory of capital punishment and focused on whether it really works,” he said.