While the National Rifle Association (NRA) has bungled the narrative in the wake of the tragedy at Shady Hook, President Barack Obama and Democrats still face major hurdles in pushing gun control legislation through Congress.
During his appearance on This Week, David Plouffe, Obama’s senior adviser, boasted that there there were enough votes in both chambers to push part of the gun control measures through Congress. But whenever politicians start talking about this issue, there are always concerns about potential electoral problems — a point that has already been acknowledged by Senate Democratic aides.
In a speech to Democratic donors over the weekend, former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, warned his party not look down at gun owners, noting the electoral consequences:
“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.
“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world.”
Clinton recalled Al Gore’s 2000 campaign against George W. Bush in Colorado, where a referendum designed to close the so-called gun show loophole shared the ballot with the presidential ticket. Gore publicly backed the proposal, while Bush opposed it.
Though the referendum passed with 70 percent of the vote, Gore lost the state. Clinton said that the reason was because a good chunk of the referendum’s opponents were single-issue voters who automatically rejected Gore as anti-gun.
Clinton would know. Not only did he watch his Vice President lose to his Republican opponent, Clinton saw how toxic the issue can be. Back in 1994, Democrats were trounced in the mid-term elections. The tax hikes Clinton signed into law and the prospect of HillaryCare certainly played a role, but the Assault Weapons Ban that Clinton signed was also a significant factor.
While the electorate has a short memory, the politics of gun control have a habit of coming back to haunt gun-grabbing politicians. Even if they oppose President Obama’s gun control measures, potentially vulnerable Democrats in both chambers will no doubt be sweating over the issue come 2014.