The Associated Press reports this morning that the White House is reaching out to “gun rights” groups in hopes of enlisting them in the discussions. Presuming that this goes nowhere, it’s clear that the White House is actively working to build a coalition in favor of gun law reform that is broad enough to ultimately isolate the NRA. It is bringing in everyone from law enforcement groups to business groups to religious leaders.
It’s worth facing up to the fact that this is going to be a very difficult battle. Gun control advocates have been historically unable to match the NRA’s pressure on Congress. Over the weekend, newly elected Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who has received an “A” from the NRA, dismissed the proposed reforms under discussion as “extreme,” signaling that some Democrats, particularly from red states, are going to toe the NRA’s line and refuse to even discuss sensible gun reform in the wake of the Newtown massacre of 20 children. And a number of red state Dem Senators are up for reelection in 2014; while several have signaled an openness to legislative action, when the specifics really start being discussed don’t be surprised if we suddenly see outbreaks of skittishness among them.
And so it will be worth watching Giffords’ fundraising and Congressional lobbying effort closely, to see if we’re looking at a fundamentally different political dynamic this time around. The White House really does appear to be fully engaged in this battle — which, along with Giffords’ new push, signals clearly that Democrats fully understand how hard a fight this is going to be.