Surprise, surprise, surprise … or not. Democrats seem poised to relearn an old lesson in the 2014 midterms, which is that gun control is a losing message. In fact, some of them are already learning it — thanks to their own side:
When Congress in April defeated an effort to strengthen the national background-check system for gun sales, it was mostly on the strength of Republican opposition. Less than two months later, proponents of stricter gun laws have decided that a small number of Democrats will make more productive targets.
In the Senate, all but four Republicans opposed the background-check measure. They have emerged mostly unscathed by the various campaigns advocating for stricter gun laws in the wake of the December attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 schoolchildren and teachers. …
In a letter to more than 1,000 donors, Bloomberg called out the four Democrats — Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.). “Instead of rising above politics to pass a law that would save lives,” he wrote, the four senators “sided with a gun lobby increasingly out of touch with Americans’ priorities.”
“The next time these four Senators want you to support them with donations to their campaigns, tell them you cannot,” Bloomberg wrote.
By asking campaign donors to withhold funds, the deep-pocketed mayor went against the will of his congressional Democratic allies, who tried but failed to secure enough GOP support for the gun bill and have warned that public criticism of vulnerable Democrats who voted against the bill will result in Republican gains and less of a chance to enact new gun laws.
First, the strategy of the gun-control advocates — especially Bloomberg, but also Barack Obama and leading members of the Democratic Party — practically guaranteed failure. They whipped up anger and demagogued on the Newtown and Aurora shootings in order to push solutions that would have addressed neither of those tragedies. If all they wanted were expanded background checks, they could have reached out to the NRA and some of these red-state officeholders in the House and Senate to craft a rational approach to that, without waving the bloody shirt constantly. Instead, they pushed for another irrational “assault weapons” ban that would have addressed only a tiny slice of homicides, even though Connecticut already had such a ban at the time of the Newtown massacre, while advocates slimed opponents as massacre cheerleaders.
Next, of course, came the IRS scandal and the exposure of the NSA surveillance programs. Remember when gun-control advocates like Joe Scarborough and Piers Morgan thought that it was irrational to fear that the government would exploit background checks to threaten gun owners? Good times, good times. No one’s laughing about expanding government power on Second Amendment issues when it’s become apparent that some abuses on the First (and possibly Fourth) Amendments have been taking place.
Under those circumstances, what red- or purple-state officeholder really wants to go back to constituents and argue that the government can be trusted to expand tracking of gun sales between family members, and to take guns away based on arbitrary definitions that have nothing to do with realistic relative lethality? They’re going to have enough trouble with these voters distancing themselves from colleagues who went all in on the demonization of gun owners while demanding more government control as the IRS and possibly the NSA was running amok. All the money in Bloomberg’s bank accounts won’t compensate for that problem.
Democrats learned the lesson in the 1990s: gun control is a loser, electorally as well as practically, as cities like Chicago and Washington DC constantly prove. It’s going to be an expensive lesson to relearn, even apart from Bloomberg’s cash blizzard.