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Insiders See Dems With Edge in Gun-Law Debate

January 20, 2013

By a slim margin, National Journal's political insiders gave the edge to Democrats on the highly-charged issue of gun control.

Slightly fewer than two-thirds of the Democratic Insiders believed their party had the most to gain from the debate, with about three-in-ten saying the parties were on equal footing. Meanwhile, a plurality of GOP Insiders—44 percent—said Democrats had the most to gain from the issue, with 35 percent giving the edge to their own party.

Who has the most to gain politically from the gun-control debate?

(103 votes)
(97 votes)
Democrats 62% 44%
Republicans 11% 35%
About equal 27% 21%

Many pointed out that there seemed to be a renewed appetite for pragmatic restrictions.

"If the Democratic response recognizes that there is no one solution, but that reducing access to certain weapons is part of the answer, along with a look at mental-illness treatment and video-game content, the party can continue to position itself as pragmatic, focused on getting things done," one Democrat said. "That's what voters want."

A Republican counterpart agreed: "Centrist voters are OK with moderate restrictions, and the GOP position has been, 'Don't give an inch.'

Several insiders pointed out that the dynamics had changed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

"The discussion has changed from 'Don’t touch my Second Amendment rights,' to 'How can we protect our children from unstable people with guns?'" one Democrat said.

"If Democrats can be successful in pushing serious gun-control efforts, it will be their first victory in two decades on that issue and poke the NRA right in the eye," a GOP insider added.

Nonetheless, several GOP insiders said Democrats' aggressive overtures at gun control had the potential to backfire.

"The Democrats' base isn’t as interested in legislating safety as much as they are interested in demolishing the 2nd Amendment culture," one Republican said. "That always leads to a political overreach on this issue."

"Obama will have every gun owner and their family members voting Republican in the midterm election," another said.

Not all Democrats disagreed, gesturing toward the volatility of the issue: "Dems are moving to drive away the moderate base that just came back."

Another Republican highlighted the risk for his own party: "If Republicans are smart, they will go along with enhanced background checks and banning 30-bullet clips so that they are not simple shills for the NRA."

There was, in fact, a significant contingency of Insiders who believed that neither side would be able to play the debate the right way.

"Whoever sounds more reasonable will win, which means probably a draw," one Democrat said.

"Both sides can alienate some of their own voters, if not careful," a Republican added. "In the end, not much will happen."

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