Party of ideas: Democrats to revive gun control push

In the wake of the Democratic Party’s second disastrous midterm election in a row, the progressive wing of the party is acknowledging that Democrats need to renew their focus on policy rather than politics.


On Wednesday, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched the “Big Ideas Project,” an initiative aimed at soliciting proposals from the public. It’s not a bad idea; the president’s party needs all the help they can get.

“After being diminished in Congress, wiped out in the South, and marginalized in the states Dems focus on gun control,” wrote National Review’s Charles Cooke on Wednesday.

It’s true. “A handful of Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday they plan to push once again for universal background checks on all gun sales in the new Congress, even though they recognize it will be an uphill battle with Republicans taking majority control,” The Hill reported.

“When you don’t pass background checks, it’s just much more likely that someone will get their hands on an illegal gun and use it to kill their neighbors or their classmates,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will join the call for expanded background checks at an event on Wednesday.

The lawmakers are also pushing for legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people who have been convicted of domestic violence.

If new gun laws did not pass even in the wake of the mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut in 2012, they certainly would not pass today. Rank and file Democrats have convinced themselves that new checks on the legal ownership of firearms are a winning issue. “90 percent of Americans support background checks,” they tell themselves. Indeed, the popularity of this concept might explain why it has been federal law to impose background checks on prospective firearms purchasers since 1993.


When the Democrat-controlled Senate failed to pass even modest new gun control legislation in April of 2013, the left was shocked. They shouldn’t have been. If they had not committed to a selective reading public opinion surveys, the failure of their new gun control push would not have come as such a surprise.

While vast majorities did support new gun laws in theory following the nightmarish massacre of school children in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, few regarded that initiative as a matter of urgency. Gallup surveys from that period showed that guns and gun control was the top priority of only 6 percent of the public in February of 2013, declining to just 4 percent the following month. By April, issue of guns ranked well behind the economy, unemployment, “dissatisfaction with government,” the federal debt/deficit, healthcare, and the decline of the institution of the family.

A Pew Research Center survey from January of 2013 found that, among 18 major issues facing the nation, the problem of guns in America ranked 15th.

When gun control died in the Senate, a Washington Post-ABC News poll discovered that a plurality (47 percent) was either “disappointed” or “angry” about that development. Just 39 percent described their reaction as either “very happy” or “relieved.” A parsing of that data, however, would have revealed the folly of the Democratic Party’s gun control push. While the vast majority of Democrats were disappointed by the Senate’s decision to pass on new gun laws, a majority of Republicans and a plurality of independents were not.


Even in the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre, gun control was only ever a priority for the left. That condition has not changed and neither has the Democratic Party.

Congressional Democrats’ renewed advocacy for new gun laws may be the starkest admission yet that the president’s party is intellectually spent and focused entirely on maintaining the cohesion of its increasingly moribund electoral coalition.

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