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Friday, May 03, 2013

Push for gun safety regulation goes on

Greg Sargent: The president’s push for expanded background checks failed, but that doesn’t mean the push for gun control is over — far from it. The defeat of Manchin-Toomey was only round one in what will likely be a long battle to build a new constituency for stricter gun laws to reduce the country’s persistent gun violence.

To wit, Politico reports this morning that Vice President Joe Biden -- who will appear tonight at a South Carolina Democratic dinner -- plans to take “trips around the country to stump for the expanded background checks and gun trafficking laws that failed to pass the Senate last month.”

In particular, he will travel to the home states of Senators Kelly Ayotte, Max Baucus, Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowsi, each of whom has seen a precipitous drop in their approval rating since voting against background checks. Baucus is retiring next year, and Ayotte and Murkowski aren’t up for reelection until 2016. But Begich is running next year, and might be vulnerable to immediate pressure. Even Ayotte has something to worry about — she will run for a second term during a presidential election, where Democratic voters are energized and more numerous. At some point, she will have to appeal to non-Republicans.

And that will mean distancing herself from a National Rifle Association that has walked further and further into the waters of extremism.
Obviously, these appearances serve two purposes — to put potential defectors on the spot, thereby winning more background check votes, and to make gun safety an issue in the 2014 races. Democrats clearly have polling that shows the issue is a potential winning strategy for the party to hold the Senate; otherwise, it’s hard to see them risking putting Democratic senators on the hot seat.

Once again, Republicans find their traditional wedge issues turning against them. They’ve lost immigration and gay rights, they’ve lost reproductive freedom and the environment, and now guns are a loser too. If Democrats turn this into an issue-based election, Republicans lose.

So count on this being a wedge issue election and expect the GOP to find themselves on the sharp end of those wedges.

[photo via]

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