By themselves, these bills wouldn’t have a huge impact on gun violence, but their passage would validate Obama’s insistence that “this time is different” and prove that the NRA can be beaten. Of course, the passage of the Brady Bill and assault weapons ban back in 1993 and 1994 supposedly proved this too; if you go back and read a newspaper from May ’94, when the ban cleared the House, you’ll find any number of writers declaring the political death of the NRA. But then Democrats were crushed in the ’94 midterms, a backlash from pro-gun voters was cited as a major reason why, and Democrats began their two-decade retreat.
Which is why November 2014 is setting up as a crucial moment in the renewed battle for gun control. There may well be enough momentum for Obama to push through some new laws this year. They won’t be sufficient, but doing so will make gun control a major issue in the ’14 midterms. If those who support the news laws pay a price at the polls, the issue will again recede. But if they survive – and, especially, if those who vote against any of the laws Obama is calling for are defeated – it should create new momentum for further, more far-reaching reforms.