More so than at any time in decades, leading Democratic presidential candidates are on the offensive over guns, pushing aggressively for new measures to prevent gun violence. Not surprisingly, the more Dems push this line, the more the National Rifle Association and its allies predict electoral ruin for the party.
“The only problem with the Democrats’ anti-Second Amendment strategy is that the vast majority of Americans disagree with them on this issue,” NRA spokesperson Andrew Arulanandam told the Washington Post last week.
There are, of course, two principal problems with the NRA’s argument. First, there’s nothing about the Democratic proposals that’s “anti-Second Amendment.” Second, a majority of Americans seem to think the Dems are correct.
Fifty-five percent of Americans say they want laws covering the sale of firearms to be stricter than they are now, a distinct rise of eight percentage points from 2014. Fewer Americans than last year want the laws to be less strict, and the proportion who want the laws to stay the same has also declined slightly.
In fairness, the Gallup data points to a series of peaks and valleys when it comes to public attitudes on this issue, and the poll was conducted on the heels of the latest mass-shooting on a college campus. Whether the results will look the same six months or a year from now is anybody’s guess.
But Democratic presidential candidates really are taking the debate in a direction unseen in several decades, confronting NRA arguments in ways previous Democratic presidential fields have gone out of their way to avoid.
I don’t doubt much of this is the result of sincere, principled beliefs about public safety, but to understand why Dems seem emboldened on the issue, new survey data such as the new Gallup report shed some light on the political calculation.