"It's clear that gun issues are no longer abstract," said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. "Mass shooting after mass shooting has left an indelible mark on Americans, and this explains the success of our candidates in the House."
Sixty-one percent of voters who responded to VoteCast, a survey of the electorate conducted by The Associated Press, said they support stricter gun laws, compared with 8 percent who said they should be loosened. Eighty-six percent of those supporting Democratic candidates backed stricter gun laws, along with 34 percent of those who supported Republicans.
"I do think there's new energy" on gun issues, even before the California assault late Wednesday night and an Oct. 27 shooting that killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, said Kris Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Wexton, Spanberger and Luria all made gun violence a central issue in their campaigns — disproving the notion that gun control is a "third rail" of politics that Democrats should not talk about, Brown said.
"Two years ago, you couldn't run on gun safety in the West and Southwest," said Feinblatt. "This year, people ran on gun safety and won. All the indication from public polling and our polling suggests that the NRA had a bad year. Their grades used to be king maker. Not anymore."
McBath, an African-American, became a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety after her son was slain at a Florida gas station by a white man angry over the loud music the black teenager and his friends had been playing in their car. McBath said her victory over Republican Rep. Karen Handel sent a strong message to the country.
"Absolutely nothing — no politician & no special interest — is more powerful than a mother on a mission," she said in a tweet.
While the election provided gun control advocates with additional momentum, enacting controls on weapons or ammunition will remain an uphill battle with a GOP-controlled Senate. Republicans are projected to expand their Senate majority and Trump remains a favored ally of the NRA.
Still, House Democrats are already promising to take action on gun control after a recent string of mass shootings, including a late-night assault at a California bar that killed 12 people. Those measures including expanded background checks and a ban on assault-style weapons are likely to reach the House floor when Democrats retake control after eight years of Republican rule.