President Barack Obama is ready to hit the road on a new campaign-style public relations trip, hoping to breathe new life into the push for stronger gun control laws…
A White House official would not comment on the timing of more presidential travel, but said people should expect to see Obama travel outside DC to bolster his insistence that gun control measures “deserve a vote” in Congress.
Obama will have help. Over the coming two-week congressional recess, representatives of the Brady Campaign and Mike Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns tell BuzzFeed they’re gearing up for major campaigns aimed at ginning up votes for gun control over recess. That includes grassroots lobbying of members while they’re home and other efforts.
[T]hree months later, the NRA has regained its footing, rallying gun owners and lawmakers against new gun controls in a fierce lobbying effort that appears to be paying dividends on Capitol Hill…
“[NRA CEO] Wayne LaPierre made terrible mistakes early on. They took two very bad spills,” Ross Baker, political scientist at Rutgers University, said Friday in a phone interview. “But they quickly recovered and they assumed their usual position of dominance…
A Democratic strategist familiar with the issue … [argued] that the more controversial elements of Obama’s gun-control wish-list —particularly the assault weapons ban — were never expected to pass Congress.
By pushing hard for that ban, the strategist said, Democrats were simply negotiating from the left, always with the idea they could cash in that chip to get the universal background checks that stand at the core of their effort to keep violent people from buying guns.
“For once, the Democrats actually did things in a smart way. Instead of starting by giving in, they started by asking for more,” the strategist said. “You could call it a momentum change, but this was always the way this was going to play out.”
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to spend $12 million on a television ad campaign meant to pressure senators into backing gun control efforts, including comprehensive background checks.
The national campaign from Mayors Against Illegal Guns will target states whose senators are on the fence, according to the New York Post…
“These ads bring the voices of Americans — who overwhelmingly support comprehensive and enforceable background checks — into the discussion to move senators to immediately take action to prevent gun violence,” Bloomberg said in a statement issued by the group he co-founded in 2006.
The N.R.A. plans to roll out its own lobbying campaign, using print and broadcast advertising to reach lawmakers during the recess. But its leaders said that their investment was unlikely to rival the intensity of Mr. Bloomberg’s spending, to be carried out through Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group he co-founded.
“Can we match Mayor Bloomberg dollar for dollar?” asked Chris W. Cox, the group’s chief lobbyist. “No one can. We don’t have to.”
He predicted that voters and senators would resist a message from an out-of-state magnate who is associated with government limits on soda and salt.
“What he is going to find out is that Americans don’t want to be told by some elitist billionaire what they can eat, drink and they damn well don’t want to be told how, when and where they can protect their families,” Mr. Cox said.
So, why aren’t the polling numbers on gun control swaying more members of Congress? Many of the poll numbers don’t capture the nuances of public opinion. For example, there is a significant difference in the level of passion of voters on the two sides of the issue. While members of the National Rifle Association or conservative gun owners home in on this issue, gun-control proponents may not register that sort of excitement.
The level of voter passion may also depend on where the respondents live. In January, there were 44 gun homicides in Chicago. In 2011, there were only 40 gun homicides in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined. The political pressure for members of Congress from those states is much less than it would be for a senator from Illinois. In fact, Sens. Dick Durbin, a Democrat, and Mark Kirk, a Republican, both from Illinois, are two of the lawmakers who have come out strongly for some of these gun-control laws.
Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, the director of social policy and politics for Third Way, said her group has conducted polling in some of these states where gun violence isn’t a major issue. When they asked if they thought policies would be effective in reducing crime, most respondents said it wouldn’t. When asked if legislation was addressing a problem in their community or somewhere far away, most respondents went with the latter. The support for gun-control policies then is “really high but shallow,” Hatalsky said.
“People will support this and they think it’s a good idea, but they don’t feel super deeply about it,” Hatalsky said. “They’re not convinced that it will necessarily work and that it will work to change their own lives.”
“I don’t think there’s ever been an issue where the public has spoken so clearly where Congress hasn’t eventually understood and done the right thing,” Bloomberg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding: “I think we are going to win this. Celebrating in advance isn’t the right thing to do. We’ve got to go out — we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us.”
Bloomberg acknowledged that the assault weapons ban faces an uncertain future, though, because the public isn’t as united on that issue…
“I don’t think we should give up on the assault weapons ban,” Bloomberg said. “But clearly it is a more difficult issue for a lot of people. I don’t know that that reflects the NRA’s power. It may be just that people have different views about assault weapons than they do about background checks.”
As I’ve said before, we may not be able to prevent every act of violence in this country. But together, we have an obligation to try. We have an obligation to do what we can.
Right now, we have a real chance to reduce gun violence in America, and prevent the very worst violence. We have a unique opportunity to reaffirm our tradition of responsible gun ownership, and also do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or people with a severe mental illness.
We’ve made progress over the last three months, but we’re not there yet. And in the weeks ahead, I hope Members of Congress will join me in finishing the job – for our communities and, most importantly, for our kids.