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Why Democrats relent on gun issues

They’ve allowed concealed-carry weapons in national parks, considered easing gun restrictions in the District of Columbia, and turned back a campaign pledge on gun-record transparency.

The latest firearms were on display at the National Rifle Association's convention in Phoenix earlier this month. Democrats were poised after last year’s election to push back against the National Rifle Association’s heavy firepower, but instead they've conceded ground on gun issues.

Matt York/AP

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Democrats are looking down the barrel of a gun as they vie to keep their power in Washington.

Poised after last year’s election to push back against the National Rifle Association’s heavy firepower, the Democrats have in rapid order conceded ground on the gun issue. They’ve allowed concealed-carry weapons in national parks, considered easing gun restrictions in the District of Columbia, and turned back a campaign pledge on gun-record transparency.

The moves, which tended to be riders to other bills, have given Republicans a rare sense of success as a minority. They also have the potential to force some Democrats in rural states “into the cross hairs” for the next election cycle by daring them to clarify their views on gun control.

For Democrats, reluctance to take on the gun lobby is tied to a desire to hold onto their majority in Washington as they pursue a progressive agenda on issues ranging from the economy to healthcare.

“What we’re seeing is a steady expansion of gun rights [nationally], and it’s purely the result of the collapse and disappearance of the Democratic Party on the issue,” says New York University criminologist James Jacobs, author of “Can Gun Control Work?”

That’s hardly how the Democrats were portrayed at the recent NRA convention in Phoenix. There, fiery speeches about a slick and aggressive White House ready to yank guns out of Americans’ closets carried the day.

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