Defying decades of beltway wisdom that taking on the NRA is akin to political suicide, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton continues to champion common sense gun reform on the 2016 campaign trail. In the past week, she has issued a call to action in speaking appearances in Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio. On Thursday, in Cleveland, she made reference to the live murder of two journalists during a Virginia newscast, by stating:
We saw the terrible consequences of gun violence in America. I don’t know how we keep seeing shooting after shooting, read about the people murdered because they went to Bible study or they went to the movies or they were just doing their jobs … and not say we can do something about this. It’s not just the deaths that are in the headlines. Most of you in this audience know that we lose people to gun violence every day.
While that statement didn’t explicitly outline the specific gun law reforms she would try to implement as president, it did signify her intent not to ignore the issue of gun violence in America. Clinton’s words in favor of doing something, have inspired right-wing pundits to grow hysterical. For example, The Daily Beast ran an article Saturday titled “Hillary Clinton Really Is Coming For Your Guns”.
While The Daily Beast piece is hyperbolic, Clinton does not appear to be concerned about a backlash from pro-gun voters. While many Democrats have cowered in fear in the face of the gun lobby and their apologists, Hillary Clinton seems to be betting on the American voter rather than hitching her hopes on placating the trigger happy voices of the NRA.
Clinton’s willingness to talk about gun sense defies conventional campaign consultant wisdom that often argues that Democrats should mute talk about guns for fear of offending the mighty political power of the gun lobby. Yet, Clinton’s stance is not only morally sensible, but it is also a smart political bet.
Public opinion polls consistently show that Americans overwhelmingly support common sense gun reform measures, including over 90 percent who favor universal background checks. Furthermore, for all the talk of the gun lobby’s political clout, two of the most successful Democratic campaigns of the 2014 election cycle were won by Governors who took on the NRA. Daniel Malloy of Connecticut and John Hickenlooper both won as candidates who advocated common sense gun laws. In a high turnout presidential election there is no reason to think that Hillary Clinton can’t be similarly rewarded by voters for her willingness to talk sense about guns.