Why This Democrat Doesn’t Stand During Moments of Silence for Gun Victims

Why This Democrat Doesn’t Stand During Moments of Silence for Gun Victims

National Journalhttp://http://www.nationaljournal.com/s/125808/with-focus-guns-democrats-try-flip-security-issue?mref=scroll

Alex Brown

 about an hour ago

House Demo­crats are go­ing on of­fense on gun re­form—and, for once, they don’t seem con­cerned that the is­sue will be a polit­ic­al loser.

“Re­pub­lic­ans are say­ing that na­tion­al se­cur­ity is go­ing to be a ma­jor is­sue in House races,” said Rep. Steve Is­rael, who heads House Demo­crats’ mes­saging ef­forts and helmed the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee for two cycles. “That may or may not be. But I do know that per­son­al se­cur­ity will be a ma­jor is­sue. And if Re­pub­lic­ans con­tin­ue to pro­tect the NRA and fail in their re­spons­ib­il­ity to pro­tect people’s per­son­al se­cur­it­ies, we’re go­ing to make that an is­sue.”

Is­rael has led the charge on try­ing to force a vote on a bill to ban people on the FBI’s ter­ror watch list from buy­ing guns. His caucus has filed nu­mer­ous pro­ced­ur­al mo­tions this week to tie up House floor time and “shame” Re­pub­lic­ans in­to hold­ing a vote on the is­sue. Mean­while, Rep. Mike Thompson has filed a dis­charge pe­ti­tion aim­ing to earn enough sig­na­tures to bring it to the floor—an un­likely pro­pos­i­tion.

But Demo­crats’ ef­forts aren’t lim­ited to wonky man­euvers on Cap­it­ol Hill. Already, at least half a dozen Demo­crat­ic chal­lengers are hit­ting GOP in­cum­bents on the is­sue, and the party’s cam­paign lead­ers plan to stay on the at­tack. “All across the coun­try, all the polling is show­ing us, all the in­ter­ac­tions with con­stitu­ents—and I’ve been trav­el­ing the coun­try very ag­gress­ively and ex­tens­ively—this no­tion that Re­pub­lic­ans’ re­fus­al to al­low for a bill to come to the floor that would ban the sale of guns to the people who are lis­ted on the FBI ter­ror­ist watch list, it’s a no-brain­er,” said DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lu­jan.

Among the Re­pub­lic­ans tak­ing heat on the is­sue, the DCCC cited in­cum­bent Reps. Mike Coff­man, Cresent Hardy, Robert Dold, Martha Mc­Sally, Lee Zeld­in, and Scott Gar­rett. Mean­while, Is­rael thinks that Demo­crats could ex­pand their at­tacks to at least 35-50 sub­urb­an and ex­urb­an dis­tricts to force Re­pub­lic­ans to de­fend the is­sue.


But Re­pub­lic­ans main­tain that they still hold the up­per hand on gun-re­lated is­sues—and it’s ac­tu­ally swing-seat Demo­crat­ic in­cum­bents who should be con­cerned.

“House Demo­crats con­tin­ue to play polit­ics with this gim­mick pro­ced­ur­al vote,” said Na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or Katie Mar­tin. “The rad­ic­al­ized shoot­ers in Cali­for­nia were not on the no-fly list and this gim­mick would have done noth­ing to pre­vent this ter­ror­ist at­tack. In­stead of con­tinu­ing to play polit­ic­al games with gim­micks and pro­ced­ur­al votes, House Demo­crats should join with Re­pub­lic­ans in ask­ing that Pres­id­ent Obama de­vel­op and im­ple­ment a ser­i­ous plan to com­bat and de­feat IS­IS and keep this coun­try safe.”

The GOP be­lieves that na­tion­al Demo­crats’ fo­cus on guns will back­fire on their mem­bers who rep­res­ent rur­al areas with pop­u­la­tions that cling fiercely to their Second Amend­ment rights. But swing-seat Demo­crats don’t seem overly con­cerned.

“Most people in this coun­try are com­fort­able with the re­forms that are be­ing pro­posed—back­ground checks, par­tic­u­larly for people who are on the ter­ror watch list,” said Rep. Rick No­lan. The Min­nesota Demo­crat won reelec­tion last cycle des­pite the Na­tion­al Rifle As­so­ci­ationspend­ing nearly $1 mil­lion to op­pose him. He claims their ads were dis­hon­est, and he’s runads of his own fea­tur­ing him wield­ing a hunt­ing rifle.

No­lan is now pit­ted in a re­match with busi­ness­man Stew­art Mills, whose fam­ily’s re­tail chain sells fire­arms, among oth­er out­door equip­ment.  He doesn’t ex­pect the at­tacks to go away any­time soon, but he’s not run­ning away from the is­sue. “The NRA gets car­ried away, and of course I have a gun sales­man run­ning against me, so I un­der­stand why he wants to sell more guns to any­body and every­body, but I just think that’s a mis­take,” he said.

An­oth­er Demo­crat on the GOP’s tar­get list, Neb­raska Rep. Brad Ash­ford, said the polit­ic­al con­sequences of in­ac­tion would be far worse than the blow­back for sup­port­ing the bill. “If you look at it in re­verse—If someone does com­mit a ter­ror­ist act with a fire­arm who’s on the no-fly list and has pur­chased a gun, well it’s go­ing to be a pretty bad deal,” he said. “[The NRA has] at­tacked me plenty of times. I re­spect the right to bear arms and I un­der­stand it’s im­port­ant in my state. I just think we’re in a new place here with ter­ror­ism and this is a tool we have, and that’s why I sup­port it.”

Demo­crats’ bet is that voters are fo­cused on na­tion­al se­cur­ity and at­tent­ive enough to draw a dis­tinc­tion between the ter­ror watch list and gun is­sues more gen­er­ally. Al­most all of the Demo­crats in­ter­viewed for this story cited polling on the is­sue that they said shows close to 80 per­cent sup­port among gun own­ers. “We are fo­cus­ing in­tently and ex­clus­ively on one is­sue, and that is the ter­ror­ist watch list and the abil­ity of people on that watch list to go buy guns and use those guns to murder Amer­ic­ans,” Is­rael said. “You’ve got about 50, 60-per­cent sup­port for an as­sault-weapons ban. On the ter­ror­ist watch list, it’s about 80 per­cent. This is an is­sue where Re­pub­lic­ans are ex­posed and they have no de­fense.”

Rep. Dan Kildee, who heads the DCCC’s Front­line ef­forts to pro­tect vul­ner­able in­cum­bents, also sees it as a polit­ic­al win­ner. “Whenev­er they fail to take up le­gis­la­tion that is uni­ver­sally con­sidered com­mon sense, it helps every­body car­ry­ing the Demo­crat­ic ban­ner be­cause it con­tin­ues to paint the Re­pub­lic­ans as ex­treme and un­will­ing to do the things most Amer­ic­ans would like them to do,” he said. “Voters are pretty cap­able of dis­cern­ing this ques­tion from some of the oth­er ques­tions that there’s a di­versity of views with­in our caucus on. The fo­cus is so much on na­tion­al se­cur­ity and on deal­ing with the threat of ter­ror­ism that it’s really be­ing framed in that con­text.”

Lu­jan said he was raised in a fam­ily that owned guns, and he be­lieves this is an is­sue where Re­pub­lic­ans have lost touch with even their proudest gun-tot­ing sup­port­ers. “Across the coun­try, even NRA mem­bers, card-car­ry­ing NRA mem­bers that pay their dues, sup­port clos­ing this loop­hole,” he said. “There seems to be more agree­ment on this than there is dis­agree­ment.”