Interest Groups & Advocacy

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 121–164 | Cite as

(Strategically) Absent Advocates: How domestic violence-related firearms policies passed in pro-gun states, 2013–2015

  • Sierra SmuckerEmail author
Original Article


In the USA, gun deaths occur at a rate that is 25 times higher than that of other developed countries (Grinshteyn and Hemenway in Am J Med 129(3):266–273, 2016. However, legislation targeted toward regulating firearms often fails to pass into law. While surprising to many observers, this policy response follows an established pattern in American politics: despite public support for tighter gun laws, the gun rights lobby often successfully suppresses gun reform due to their greater monetary resources, political savvy, and access to grassroots support than advocates of gun control (Bruce-Briggs in The Public interes 45:37, 1976; Goss in Disarmed: the missing movement for gun control in America, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2006). However, laws that restrict domestic abusers from owning firearms have diverged from this pattern. This study identifies an element of advocates’ political strategy that increased the likelihood of policy change: the prominence of domestic violence prevention advocates and “strategic absence” of larger gun control groups in the policy debate. The insights generated by this study shed light on broader questions about advocacy strategy, the policy-making process, and the modern politics of firearms.


Interest groups Advocacy organizations State politics Gun politics Domestic violence 



This project greatly benefited from the support and guidance of Kristin Goss, Phil Cook, Deondra Rose, and Beth Moracco. I would also like to thank Ellen Smucker for her keen editing skills as well as the three reviewers with Interest Groups and Advocacy who gave extremely constructive advice.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.RAND CorporationSanta MonicaUSA

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