There’s division within the Democratic Party over how aggressively to push gun control, an issue that is growing more urgent among the liberal base but threatens to hurt centrists running in battleground states.
While Democratic senators from liberal states such as Connecticut and Oregon are rolling out new gun control legislation in Washington, some strategists warn the issue could alienate pro-gun voters in swing states states such as Colorado, New Hampshire, Florida, Pennsylvania and Nevada.
But it could be difficult for Democratic Senate candidates to keep the gun issue at bay, given the rising fervor in the liberal base for action.
Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have tried to tap into the grassroots anger over gun violence, zeroing in on the issue during their first presidential debate.
“We have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence,” Clinton said at the debate in Nevada, a battleground state that could decide the Senate majority next year. “This has gone on too long and it’s time the entire country stood up against the [National Rifle Association].”
O’Malley held a news conference on gun safety in Las Vegas after the debate and has touted his role in tightening gun laws as Maryland’s governor.
He crashed the Republican presidential debate last week in Boulder, Colo. — another battleground state where Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) faces a tough race — in search of “that elusive species called a Republican presidential candidate with the spine to take on the NRA.”
The move puzzled MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who asked him in an interview: ”Why go make the case for gun reform at the site of the Republican debate, specifically? The place where there isn’t a consensus on gun reform is in the Democratic Party.”
O’Malley cited past mass shootings at Columbine High School and a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., asserting, “There were a whole lot of moms and dads here who lost sons and daughters in those massacres and they want this to be an issue we address as a people.”
Democratic strategists based in Colorado, however, warn that presidential candidates would pay a price for such talk come general-election time.