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Why Democrats relent on gun issues

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Others voice similar views. “Why people fear the NRA is something we’re having an extremely hard time getting our hands around. Frankly, we’re baffled,” says Ladd Everitt, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington.

What President Clinton said

Historically, Democrats’ fears are based on the words of none other than President Clinton, who wrote in his autobiography that pro-gun-control stances cost Democrats the House in 1994 and the presidency in 2000. In that presidential election, Al Gore lost Tennessee, Arkansas, and West Virginia – states that could have made up for his eventual loss in Florida.

Critics say that this is a simplistic view and that the NRA was rebuffed on several fronts in those elections. “The gun lobby’s exaggerated ’94 triumph continues to haunt the nation’s capital, inflating the NRA’s clout and Democratic cowardice on gun violence," writes Dorothy Samuels in a recent New York Times “Editorial Observer” column.

But Democrats have largely taken Mr. Clinton at his word, and for good reason, many politicians argue. Mr. Gore’s campaign boss in West Virginia told the Cook Political Report that there were four reasons for his defeat: “Guns, guns, guns, and a robo-call machine that was incorrectly programmed to make calls at 3 a.m.”

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