Democrats may be publicly planning a major effort to increase regulations on so-called “assault weapons” and “high capacity magazines” but privately, the party is concerned they’ve already gone too far on the issue, and it may be costing them in some 2018 swing districts.
According to reports in The Hill, Democrats are ready and willing to take action on gun control — and they feel intense pressure to do so from the far left, for whom the issue is front and center — but many of the 2018 Democrats up for re-election are from conservative districts and “blue states” that went for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and not Hillary Clinton.
“It’s one of those fundamental issues that riles up American politics — it’s up there with abortion and immigration — and they need to be very careful,” one aide told the D.C. news outlet. “If a Democratic candidate, or the party as a whole, overextends on this issue, then it becomes incredibly easy for the Republicans to play that up in a lot of districts.”
Even minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who will retake the Speaker’s gavel if the Democrats retake the House in November, is focusing on small measures to “expanding background checks before almost all gun sales and empowering federal researchers to study gun violence as a public health issue,” rather than on big, sweeping pieces of legislation, like some Parkland students and gun control activists seem determined to force on the public.
‘[T]he Democrats’ campaign arm is shying away from the notion that the party will adopt any national message on gun reform, citing regional and cultural differences across the country,” the Hill reports, also noting that, with a Republican-controlled Congress, Democratic efforts would meet with immediate failure, which is also costly on the campaign trail.
Their fear is substantiated. When then-President Bill Clinton enacted an assault weapons ban in the mid-1990s, it became a central issue in Al Gore’s bid against Republican George W. Bush. And former President Obama’s deep derision for gun owners became a hot topic after Sandy Hook; Democratic efforts to increase gun regulations failed miserably, and in some cases, state laws actually loosened in response.
So while Democrats may talk a big game on national news networks, the chances of serious Congressional movement is highly unlikely — unless they’d like to also sacrifice the tenuous hold they have on some state-level races.