The political ramifications of the gun-control debate won’t be fully felt until 2014 when members of Congress are up for reelection. But in the short term, Democrats are confident that gun control will emerge as a pivotal issue in the upcoming Massachusetts special election to fill Sen. John Kerry's vacant seat.
Democratic operatives believe that former Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s past support from pro-gun interests could be a significant vulnerability, given that Massachusetts is a solidly Democratic state where President Obama won 61 percent of the vote in 2012. Brown lost to Democrat Elizabeth Warren by an 8-point margin last year, with his Republican identification being a major vulnerability.
Brown received more contributions from the gun-rights lobby than any other Senate candidate during the 2012 cycle, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. He received $30,275 in 2012 and $23,020 in 2010 from gun-rights interests. As a state legislator, Brown received support from pro-Second Amendment groups for his stances.
But while Brown previously opposed a federal assault-weapons ban, saying it should be left up to individual states, he reversed his position following the Newtown, Conn., shooting.
"What happened in Newtown where those children were subject to that level of violence is beyond my comprehension. As a state legislator in Massachusetts I supported an assault-weapons ban thinking other states would follow suit. But unfortunately, they have not and innocent people are being killed," Brown told the Springfield Republican in December.
“The longer this issue stays at the forefront of the national conversation, the worse it is for Scott Brown,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter.
Canter said that the issue would be particularly potent, assuming Rep. Ed Markey emerges as the Democratic nominee. Markey is a longtime proponent of stricter gun-control measures, and is the only Democrat to announce he is running for Kerry's seat. He has the backing of the DSCC and Kerry.
But Brown’s outspoken position for new gun-control measures, particularly his recent call for a federal assault-weapons ban, could be a political counterbalance to any past financial support he’s received from the National Rifle Association. The NRA hasn’t officially withdrawn its support of Brown, but the organization’s spokesman, Andrew Arulanandam, told The Hill, "We take anyone's support for gun bans very seriously. It is viewed very negatively by the National Rifle Association and by our 4 million-plus members.”