Colorado recall hurts gun control effort at federal level, advocates say

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now.  Voting for laws that infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of the law-abiding gun owners can cost a politician his/her job.  

That was one of the main lessons that lawmakers across the country at all levels of government took away from the historic recall of Colorado Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron last week.

Consequently, the movement to enact tougher gun laws at the federal level — which was already an uphill battle — is going to be more challenging than ever before, several pro-gun control legislators and advocates have acknowledged.

“The results of the recall were not good news,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told the Associated Press. Murphy represented Newtown, Connecticut, in the House at the time of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Back in April, the Senate failed to pass three major components of Obama’s gun control agenda: a federal ban on so-called “assault weapons,” a federal ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and an expanded background check bill.

Of those three, the most politically feasible was the expanded background check bill drafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), which fell short of the six votes needed to overcome a Republican-led filibuster.  The Manchin-Toomey bill would have required background checks on private sales and transfers made over the Internet and at gun shows.

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he wants to bring the background check bill up for another vote, the big question is: when?  When is the right time to reintroduce the measure?

According to Reid, the right time is when he has the votes to get the measure passed.

However, of those who voted against the measure, not one has changed their mind even despite the pressure placed on them by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Specifically, MAIG has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars running attack ads against Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).  MAIG believes both Ayotte and Flake are vulnerable and may be inclined to change their position.

Now, though, in the wake of the Colorado recall elections, it will arguably be more difficult to convince those on the fence to switch.  Therefore, the gun control crowd should bide its time and wait until it has momentum, argued Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

“My advice to Reid is, if there’s any indication of change or movement in a positive direction, we should consider it. But so far I’ve not seen that,” Durbin told the AP.

Indeed.  Polls have shown that public support for gun control has waned in recent months and gun control organizations have struggled to rally folks to their events.  At a recent MAIG rally in Columbus, Ohio, no one showed up but the event’s organizers.  Similarly, an event in Little Rock, Arkansas, drew only a handful of activists.

Then there is the mighty National Rifle Association that gun control advocates have to deal with.  Thus far, it’s safe to say that the nation’s gun lobby has outperformed gun-control lobbyists in Washington.

“The NRA does its job better than our side does our job,” said Jim Kessler, a co-founder of Third Way, which advocates for centrist Democratic policies. “They know how to influence and intimidate elected people.”

The NRA will do its best not to let Bloomberg or other gun-control outfits to gain momentum.  One can make a case that it will continue to succeed because of how politically engaged NRA members and gun owners are, meaning they show up at the polls and vote.  This was clearly the case in Colorado where Morse and Giron outspent recall supporters five to one, dumping a total of around $3 million into their campaign.  NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam told the AP that this fact cannot be overlooked.

“It sends a strong message that grassroots still matters, and voters trump Bloomberg and his money,” said Arulanandam, who noted that the NRA only got involved after being asked to by local gun-rights activists.

In the end, the recall in Colorado is further proof that the future of gun control being passed at the federal level is not so bright.