WASHINGTON — Supporters of President Barack Obama's gun-control proposals are planning a methodical, state-by-state campaign to try to persuade key lawmakers that it's in their political interest to back his sweeping effort to crack down on firearms and ammunition sales and expand criminal background checks.
To succeed will require overturning two decades of conventional wisdom that gun control is bad politics.
The National Rifle Association is confident that argument won't sell. But with polls showing majorities supporting new gun laws a month after the Connecticut shooting deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six adults, gun-control activists say the political calculus has changed. Their goal in coming weeks is to convince lawmakers of that, too, and to counter the NRA's proven ability to mobilize voters against any proposals limiting access to guns.
The gun-control advocates are focused first on the Senate, which is expected to act before the House on Obama's gun proposals. How Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., proceeds will depend in part on what he hears from a handful of Democrats in more conservative states where voters favor gun rights. These include some who are eyeing re-election fights in 2014, such as Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana.
We need to tell our members of Congress that they've got to stand up for sensible gun laws, and if they do that, we will stand up for them, and if they don't we will stand up for whoever runs against them, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told the U.S. Conference of Mayors Friday. Because that's exactly what the NRA is trying to do.
Bloomberg's group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is among a coalition of some 50 labor unions, advocacy groups and others that have been meeting since before Christmas to plot strategy, in loose coordination with the White House, according to people involved.