Why didn't Democrats pass gun control when they controlled Congress in Obama's first term?

A filibuster-proof majority is a precious thing. Republicans have never had one, ever, but Democrats enjoyed one less than a decade ago. It bears remembering that, as the horror in Parkland yesterday has made this a week in which not one but two Democratic legislative priorities are on the table in which liberal self-righteousness is conspicuous, even by their usual obnoxious standards. Issue one: Immigration. They want a mass amnesty of DREAMers and they’re not willing to give up much to get it because, they reason, they shouldn’t need to. Amnesty is a virtue in itself! We shouldn’t need to bargain over it. (Unlike enforcement, that is.)

Issue two: Gun control. David French lamented this morning on Twitter that it’s impossible to have a useful conversation about mass shootings until the left believes that the right wants to stop mass shootings too. But I tweeted back at him that that’s impossible; their worldview rests on the belief that the right operates in bad faith in all things. Social media is brimming with “the blood is on your hands” arguments today aimed at gun-rights supporters. It’s a national crisis, we’re told, and the callous Republicans do nothing.

Which raises the obvious question. Given the moral urgency of both problems, why didn’t St. Barack and his caucus of innocents in Congress do anything to solve them when they had the power to do so? They could have passed amnesty. They could have banned, ahem, “assault weapons.” They didn’t. Why?

They didn’t ban them because they cared more about getting elected than they did about these supposed national emergencies. The Virginia Tech massacre was just two years old when Democrats assumed power in 2009, which also happened to be the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. Rampage killings at American schools were very much on the national radar. But Democrats had a problem: Having inflamed right-wingers by passing a massive stimulus shortly after Obama was sworn in and then driven the right crazy by ramming ObamaCare through, they worried that pushing any more big-ticket Democratic priorities would cost them control of Congress in the midterms. I remember them in early 2010 trying to talk themselves into believing that the poor polling for O-Care would turn around as voters got to know the new law better and that a midterm rout would be averted. But they were never sure enough of that to go all-in on gun control and amnesty too. They knew that, to maintain a sizable congressional majority, they’d need their red-state Democrats to get re-elected, and two major pieces of liberal legislation on top of the stimulus and ObamaCare was simply too much.

So, faced with the choice of using their power to impose their will on policy and letting the chips fall where they may in the midterms or playing it safe in hopes of preventing an electoral slaughter in red states, they chose to play it safe. They got slaughtered anyway. And you know what? They probably would do it again right now, given the tenuous position red-state Dems like McCaskill, Tester, Donnelly et al. are in this fall. Something to keep in mind as fingers are being wagged in your face about how little you care about DREAMers and schoolkids. Democrats only care when it’s electorally convenient.

Question, though: If they end up in control of government again in 2021 — probably not with a filibuster-proof majority under even the rosiest Democratic scenarios, but you never know — would they choke on immigration and gun control again? I don’t think they could afford to after all the hot air they’ve expended on the “fierce urgency of now” with respect to both issues. They *might* balk at a full amnesty for the entire illegal population, as that would trigger another spectacular right-wing backlash, but an amnesty for millions of DREAMers along the lines of what Trump has proposed, minus virtually all of the security measures he’s demanding in return, would be a no-brainer.

As for gun control, lefty Nicholas Kristof floated a few ideas in a column today that also seem like no-brainers — and interestingly, a new assault-weapons ban isn’t among them. Expanded background checks would certainly pass, as it’s 90 percent issue in national polling. Bump stocks would be banned in light of the Vegas massacre. Legislation barring people subject to protective orders from buying guns would be popular. So would the “no fly, no buy” bill, prohibiting people on the no-fly list from purchasing weapons, even though it’s a disgrace from a due-process standpoint. Stuff like that that bites at gun rights around the edges will antagonize the right but not as much as a direct attempt to ban any particular guns would. But I don’t know if the left will allow a Democratic government to come at this issue around the margins. They’re going to want AR-15s off the market, at a minimum. A lot of Americans won’t like that. How bold will the Democratic leadership be in risking another midterm red wave?

Here’s Joe Scarborough this morning warning Republicans that gun-rights supporters aren’t welcome on his show or something. Exit question: If Democrats try to pass gun control in 2021 and are blocked by Republicans, would Majority Leader Schumer nuke the filibuster to make it happen?