The Common Good

Suburban growth pushes politicians toward gun control

Date: April 12, 2013

Pennsylvania, Georgia and Virginia have long been bastions of gun-rights supporters, with vast rural areas and strong hunting traditions. But in recent days, lawmakers from those states have demonstrated a new willingness to back stricter firearms regulations, setting the stage for what could be the first major gun-control legislation to pass Congress in two decades.

The shift underscores a new reality of gun politics in America: The rapid growth of suburbs in historically gun-friendly states is forcing politicians to cater to the more centrist and pragmatic views of voters in subdivisions and cul-de-sacs as well as to constituents in shrinking rural hamlets where gun ownership is more of a way of life.

In Pennsylvania, for example, all 14 Republicans representing the state in Congress are solidly pro-gun and have an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association. Yet the state's conservative senator is the co-architect of a new compromise to expand background checks for firearms purchases. And a handful of GOP House members from the state's suburban areas are poised to back the measure.