Statement of Purpose Suicide or homicide by firearm accounted for the fourth and sixth leading causes of death due to injury in the United States. Evidence-based firearm injury prevention policies requires political support. Passage of effective policy requires public health officials to understand factors influencing political decisions. Geography and political partisanship are non-modifiable factors; however, health advocates can capitalise on opportunities for policy change if they can identify when opportunities arise within these political arenas.
Methods To test the relationship of geography and partisanship on candidates’ positions on firearms, three indicators were collected during the 2016 primary elections for Governor, Congressional Senator and House Representative: 1) issue statements on firearms from campaign websites, 2) NRA grade assignments indicating the organisation’s evaluation of each candidate’s position on firearms, and 3) NRA endorsement or non-endorsement of a candidate. Data were aggregated by geographic region and political party.
Results Firearm positions for the 2016 candidates clearly varied along party lines with the exception of two regions ‘“ with both parties having similar positions on firearms on their campaign websites. Little difference in NRA grade average presented in some of the regions, with some Democrats actually receiving more endorsements. Findings suggest that geography, more than partisanship, impacts candidates’ firearm positions.
Conclusions Nationally there is a difference between partisanship and positions on firearms. However, one does not necessarily predict the other, nor does it demonstrate a correlation between party affiliation and firearms on a more regional, state or local level. Understanding these variations will assist with the issue-framing of firearm injury prevention programs and laws across the country, leading to the greater success and better health outcomes.
Significance Using publicly available tools to assess potentially friendly venues for firearm injury prevention policy will assist advocates creation of national strategies for successful passage of policies.